You’ve likely heard about one of the more common forms of rheumatic disease: rheumatoid arthritis. In the U.S. alone, this disease affects nearly 59 million people. You might even be dealing with the effects of it yourself.
Like other forms of rheumatic diseases, arthritis affects the joints and bones in your body. However, many other rheumatic diseases don’t stop there and can cause damage to the organs in your body.
In this article, we’ll explore information on what rheumatic disease looks like and what treatment might look like for those living with rheumatic diseases.
What Are Rheumatic Diseases?
While many rheumatic diseases get grouped under the umbrella of arthritis, rheumatic diseases could also aptly be described as inflammatory or autoimmune diseases. This occurs when the body’s immune system attacks any joints, organs, bones, ligaments, and muscles.
Rheumatic diseases can be incredibly painful and can worsen over time. A variety of types exist underneath this umbrella including carpal tunnel and lupus.
Symptoms of the above range from problems with sleep to swollen or damaged joints. However, each disease is characterized by its own specific set of signs and symptoms.
While different rheumatic diseases will come with their own inherent symptoms, there are a few common ones to look out for:
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic pain
- Joint pain
- Limited joint movement
- Stiff joints
- Joint inflammation
Certain symptoms can become so exacerbated that it becomes painful to complete basic tasks such as bathing or getting dressed.
Types of Arthritis
As previously mentioned, rheumatic diseases typically get categorized under the umbrella of arthritis. There are many different types of arthritis that cause a variety of issues for each individual. Types include:
- Carpal tunnel
- Lyme disease
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
Additional types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.
While there is no specific pinpointed cause for why certain people develop a rheumatic disease, there are a few potential reasons such as family history, lifestyle choices, and general wear and tear on the body.
Let’s take a look at one of the more common types of rheumatic disease. Ankylosing spondylitis is a disease that affects the spine. This inflammatory disease can lead to the fusion of bones in the spine if left untreated.
Early symptoms are common to other types of arthritis such as pain, stiffness, and fatigue. Symptoms flare up more commonly in the morning or after long periods of being sedentary. The affected areas include lower back vertebrae, hip joints, shoulder joints, and more.
In general, women are less likely to develop this than men and might start in early adulthood. Be sure to see a doctor if the pain in your lower back gets worse. Complications of this type of arthritis can lead to inflammation of the eyes, heart problems, and even compression fractures.
Another common form of rheumatic disease: fibromyalgia. This disorder can lead to chronic pain and fatigue.
Some describe the pain of fibromyalgia as a constant aching muscle. This particular disease doesn’t cause damage to joints like arthritis does. Instead, pain and tenderness are felt throughout the body.
- Dry eyes
- Brain fog
- Difficulty with sleep
Fibromyalgia symptoms mimic the symptoms of many other conditions, which makes diagnosis difficult. Your doctor will generally have fibromyalgia sufferers go through a variety of tests to rule out other conditions before diagnosis.
When to See a Health Professional
Due to the wide-ranging nature of the different types of rheumatic disease, there is no single test to help with diagnosis. Rather, doctors will generally run multiple labs and tests in order to confirm the presence of rheumatic disease.
Rheumatologists specialize in arthritis and arthritis adjacent conditions but knowing when it might be time to see a rheumatologist can be tough to pinpoint. Early diagnosis of a rheumatic disease can help eliminate the severity of painful symptoms down the road. A few good indications it might be time to see a professional include:
- Any swelling or joint pain
- If you receive abnormal blood tests
In addition, if your general practitioner cannot diagnose or treat any unusual symptoms you may be experiencing, a rheumatologist will be able to better pinpoint what is going on.
Depending on the type of disease, treatments will look different for each individual. Some options might include:
- Oral over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen
- Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen
- Physical or occupational therapy
- Regular massage
- Pain management
- Aerobic exercise
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
In certain advanced cases, surgery might be suggested by your health practitioner.
Left unchecked, rheumatic disease can lead to chronic or fatal outcomes. We know that certain forms of rheumatic disease are a result of rampant inflammation in the body. For those with arthritis, inflammation leads to pain and swelling in the joints.
Chronic inflammation can also lead to organ damage, which contributes to a whole host of side effects like heart disease, diabetes, memory problems, and more.
Looking for Relief?
Because of the wide-ranging nature of rheumatic diseases, it can feel difficult to know where to start your healing journey. If you’re experiencing regular pain symptoms, feel stiffness in your joints, or simply feel any lingering concerns, it might be time to consult a specialist.
At AO Multispeciality Clinic, our rheumatologists are trained to carry out the research needed to detect specific ailments. Rheumatic diseases can evolve over time. Our rheumatologists work to identify new and ongoing problems in order to find a treatment program that works for you.
Whether you’re dealing with achy joints or extreme fatigue, our team is here to make sure you get the answers and treatment you need. Don’t hesitate to contact one of our offices to get your next appointment scheduled. We look forward to seeing you and helping you on your healing journey.