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Rheumatology: Understanding Rheumatic diseases

Team AckoJan 18, 2024

In recent years, the field of Rheumatology has seen a slew of significant developments. This is especially true in regard to the rapid advancements in the basic science of musculoskeletal illnesses and enhanced imaging techniques, which have enabled the advancement of cutting-edge biological medicines with novel targets. Over the last two decades, Rheumatology has evolved from a predominantly inpatient-based specialty with ineffective treatment methods to a primarily outpatient-based specialty with focused and science-based therapy. This article explains the assessment of the different diseases, treatment options, coping strategies, and how to manage the condition.




What is Rheumatology?

Rheumatology is a specialty of medicine that studies and treats rheumatic disorders and musculoskeletal ailments. This encompasses connective tissue systemic illnesses such as osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis, back pain, soft tissue rheumatism, and non-traumatic bone problems.

Who is a Rheumatologist?

A Rheumatologist is a physician in rheumatology who diagnoses, resolves and manages a wide range of illnesses, including inflammatory (Rheumatic) diseases, connective tissue disorders affecting and Autoimmune illnesses. 

Causes of Rheumatic diseases

Although the exact cause of most types of rheumatic disease is not known, experts believe that some or all of the following factors may play a role, depending on the type of rheumatic disease.

  • Genetics and family history

  • Triggers in the surroundings

  • Lifestyle preferences

  • Infection

  • Trauma

  • Problems with metabolism

  • The effects of wear and tear on a joint

Symptoms of Rheumatic diseases

The following are some of the most prevalent arthritis and rheumatic illness symptoms.

  • Pain in the joints

  • Joint inflammation

  • Joint stiffness that is felt early morning

  • Tenderness and chronic pain in the joints

  • Warmth or redness in the affected region

  • Limited movement

  • Severe fatigue and exhaustion

  • General malaise

  • Fever

  • Loss of weight

6 most common Rheumatic disorders

There are around 100 different types of rheumatic disorders. Each type of rheumatic disease affects different areas of the body and has a different set of symptoms. Following are the six most common types of Rheumatic Disorders.

1. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

It causes your immune system to attack your joints. Several joints might be affected by RA at a time. Pain, inflammation, and stiffness occur when your immune system attacks these joints. This can result in degeneration of the joints. People suffering from RA may lose movement ability or develop abnormalities in their affected joints.

RA is a systemic disease that can damage important organs such as the eyes, lungs, skin, heart, kidneys, neurological system, and gastrointestinal system. It can also induce anaemia by affecting the blood

2. Lupus

Lupus is a long-term autoimmune illness that causes inflammation all over the body. In this disease, your immune system attacks organs such as the joints, heart, skin, kidneys, brain, blood, liver, lungs, hair, and eyes. This can cause inflammation, pain, and even organ, joint, and tissue damage. Lupus can be a serious and occasionally fatal disease.

3. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS)

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a kind of autoimmune arthritis that affects your vertebral column, causing long-term stiffness and, in extreme cases, immobility. AS can cause inflammation in other major joints, such as your hips, shoulders, and ribs, in addition to producing pain and stiffness in your lower back and pelvis.

4. Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis may occur in patients who have psoriasis, an autoimmune skin illness. Psoriatic arthritis is characterised by the following symptoms, along with joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.

  • A severely inflamed finger or toe

  • Nail issues, such as cracking or detachment from the nail bed

  • Swelling of the Achilles tendon or inflammation of other tendons

  • Low back pain with or without sacroiliac joint involvement

5. Gout

Gout occurs when your body's uric acid levels rise. When you have too much uric acid in your body, it can form crystals in some areas, including your skin and joints. Gout-related uric acid accumulation can potentially lead to chronic inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Gout patients feel joint discomfort, redness, and edema. It usually affects the big toe, although it can also affect other joints.

6. Systemic vasculitis

Vasculitis is a disorder in which the blood vessel walls become inflamed. Vasculitis has four major subcategories.

  • ANCA-associated vasculitis: This vasculitis attacks tiny to medium-sized blood vessels and several other organs.

  • Giant cell arteritis and Takayasu arteritis: These vasculitides often affect medium to large blood vessels.

  • Polyarteritis nodosa: It is a type of vasculitis that inflames and destroys the tissues in medium-sized arteries.

  • Kawasaki disease: This is a type of medium-vessel vasculitis that mostly affects children.

Treatment options Rheumatic disorders

Several rheumatic disorders can immediately deteriorate and develop long-term health consequences if left untreated. Treatment usually involves a combination of medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Rheumatoid arthritis medications include the following.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs): These are nonprescription drugs that can help reduce pain and inflammation. Ibuprofen and naproxen are the most common NSAIDs.

  • Corticosteroids: When taken orally, these drugs can reduce the immune system's function and inflammation. For more concentrated effects, some steroids can be injected. Prednisone and cortisol are examples of medications in this class. They require a doctor's prescription.

  • Immunosuppressive medications: These drugs include corticosteroids as well as biologic medications. Immunosuppressive medications suppress immune system function in order to prevent injury and inflammation. However, they can have serious negative effects, especially if used for an extended period of time. Adalimumab and etanercept are some of the most common immunosuppressive medications.

Colchicine, a prescription anti-inflammatory medication, can be used to treat gout. Colchicine works by reducing swelling and the formation of uric acid crystals, which cause discomfort in the affected joint(s).

When your joints are severely damaged and not controlled with medication, one option to regain function would be surgery. Some surgeries to treat Rheumatic disorders may include knee replacement surgery, hip replacement surgery, and other surgeries to fix a defect.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes some people to become inactive. However, inactivity can result in a loss of joint motion and muscle strength. As a result, joint stability suffers, which also causes pain and tiredness. Exercise on a regular basis may help to avoid and combat these consequences.

Workouts that are beneficial include:

  • Exercising range of motion to retain and restore joint motion

  • Strength-building exercises

  • Endurance exercises

Living well with Rheumatic conditions

Managing a rheumatic condition can be challenging, but there are key aspects to consider that can greatly improve your quality of life. Firstly, it's important to understand that rheumatic diseases may affect individuals differently as they age. Additionally, individuals with rheumatic conditions may also experience fibromyalgia. Including regular exercise into your routine can help manage pain, but it's equally important to prioritise rest and give your body time to recover. Managing stress is crucial, and seeking support from a mental health professional can be beneficial. 

Furthermore, maintaining a healthy weight may help reduce symptoms and slow down disease progression. By being proactive and mindful of these factors, you can take control of your rheumatic condition and enhance your overall well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some FAQs related to Rheumatology and Rheumatic diseases.


What are the causes of Rheumatic diseases?

Although the exact cause of most types of rheumatic disease is not known, some common causes may involve genetics and family history, lifestyle preferences, infection, trauma, impaired metabolism, and wear and tear on a joint.

What are the common symptoms of Rheumatic diseases?

The most prevalent arthritis and rheumatic illness symptoms may include joint pain, joint inflammation, joint stiffness, tenderness, and chronic pain in the joints; warmth or redness in the affected region; severe fatigue and exhaustion, fever, and weight loss.

When should you visit a doctor if you have Rheumatic disease?

You should also consult your doctor if your RA symptoms persist despite treatment and you have any of the following symptoms.

  • If your pain and joint stiffness increases

  • If there is visible redness

  • If you continue to feel exhausted upon doing milder activities

  • If you are unable to do your daily chores

  • If you feel a high level of stress


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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