Rheumatic diseases are illnesses that cause long-term inflammation and loss of function of one or more structures that help support the body. Examples of supportive structures include connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, and the cartilage and bones that make up joints.
There are more than 100 types of rheumatic diseases. Examples of common rheumatic diseases include bursitis, fibromyalgia, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthropathies, and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Although each disease is unique, common symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling. These symptoms affect different body parts, depending on the specific disease. Some rheumatic diseases may affect internal organs.
There are currently no cures for fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthropathies, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, many treatments are available to manage symptoms. Treatment primarily focuses on reducing inflammation and relieving pain. Patients with bursitis usually recover completely after a few weeks of treatment to reduce swelling. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) usually goes away on its own after several months or years. Patients may take medications to reduce symptoms until the condition resolves on its own.
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common types and causes of rheumatic diseases
Bursitis: Bursitis occurs when the fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that lubricate and cushion the joints become inflamed. As a result, bursitis causes pain, especially when the patient tries to move the affected joint.
Bursitis usually affects the shoulders, elbows, or hips, but it may affect many other joints throughout the body.
Bursitis may be caused by arthritis in the joint, injury, or infection of the bursae.
Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia, formerly called chronic muscle pain syndrome, psychogenic rheumatism, and tension myalgias, causes pain and fatigue in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
It remains unknown what causes fibromyalgia. Researchers believe that several factors, including sleep disturbances, injury, abnormalities in the nervous system, and changes in the muscle metabolism, may lead to the development of fibromyalgia.
Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, occurs when the cartilage in the joints breaks down. The cartilage serves as a cushion between bones, allowing the joint to move without pain. Therefore, patients with osteoarthritis experience pain and reduced mobility in their joints. Osteoarthritis may affect any joint in the body. Osteoarthritis occurs most often in individuals older than 45 years, but it may develop at any age.
The exact cause of osteoarthritis remains unknown. Most researchers believe that several factors, including obesity, age, joint injury or stress, genetics, and muscle weakness, may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body's immune system, which normally fights against disease and infection, attacks itself. Unlike osteoarthritis, which only affects the bones and cartilage, rheumatoid arthritis may also cause swelling in other areas of the body, including the tear ducts, salivary glands, the lining of the heart, the lungs, and occasionally, blood vessels
Women are two to three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men. Most cases of rheumatoid arthritis occur in individuals who are 20-50 years old.
Some researchers believe that this autoimmune process is triggered by an infection with a virus or bacterium. Genetics may also play a role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA): Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a type of rheumatoid arthritis that develops in children between the ages of six months and 12 years of age. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis that develops in adults, JRA is usually a temporary condition that subsides after several months or years.
There are three major types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: pauciarticular JRA, polyarticular JRA, and systemic JRA. Pauciarticular JRA affects four or fewer joints, especially the knees or wrists. Polyarticular JRA causes swelling and pain in five or more joints, especially the hands, feet, knees, hips, feet, ankles, and neck. Systemic JRA affects the entire body. Multiple joints are swollen, painful, and stiff.
Researchers believe that JRA, like rheumatoid arthritis, is a type of autoimmune disorder. It remains unknown what triggers this autoimmune reaction in patients. It has been suggested that an infection or heredity may be involved in the development of JRA.
Spondyloarthropathies: Spondyloarthropathies are a group of rheumatic diseases that primarily affect the spine. Some of the most common spondyloarthropathies include ankylosing spondylitis, Reiter's syndrome, and psoriatic arthritis. These disorders cause the joints and bones to become inflamed, causing pain and stiffness.
Researchers have not discovered what causes spondyloarthropathies. However, certain genetic mutations have been linked to the disorders. This suggests that some spondyloarthropathies may be passed down within families (inherited).
Systemic lupus erythematosus
(SLE): Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation. When only the skin is involved, the condition is called discoid lupus. When internal organs are involved, the condition is called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). One or more organs may be involved with SLE. Some cases of discoid lupus may progress to SLE. Researchers estimate that about 10% of discoid lupus patients eventually develop SLE.
The exact cause of lupus remains unknown. Researchers believe that genetics may be involved because individuals who have family histories of lupus are more likely to develop the disease than those who do not. Also, it is more common in African Americans and individuals of Japanese or Chinese descent.
The use of certain medications, including hydralazine, guanidine, procainamide, phenytoin, isoniazide, and d-penicillamine, has also been associated with SLE. Drug-induced lupus resolves once the offending medication is discontinued.
Hormones may also play a role since females are more likely to develop SLE than males.
General: In order to prevent complications, patients should regularly visit their healthcare providers. C-reactive protein (CRP) tests and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) tests are commonly used to monitor inflammation associated with rheumatic diseases.
C-reactive protein (CRP) test: The C-reactive protein (CRP) test can be used to monitor inflammation that is associated with rheumatic diseases. A high or increasing amount of CRP in the blood suggests that the patient has an acute infection or inflammation. In a healthy person, CRP is usually less than 10 milligrams per liter of blood. Most infections and inflammations result in CRP levels higher than 100 milligrams per liter of blood.
While the test is not specific enough to diagnose a particular disease, it can suggest an autoimmune disorder, and it can be used to help physicians monitor inflammation and determine if current treatments are effective.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): An erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test may be conducted to measure and monitor inflammation associated with rheumatic diseases. This blood test measures the rate at which red blood cells settle in unclotted blood.
During an inflammatory response, the high proportion of fibrinogen in the blood causes red blood cells to stick together. The red blood cells form stacks called rouleaux, which settle faster than normal. Elevated levels usually occur in patients who have rheumatic diseases.
A normal value for men younger than 50 years old is 15 millimeters per hour, and a normal value for men older than 50 is less than 20 millimeters per hour. The normal value for women who are less than 50 years old is less than 20 millimeters per hour, and the normal value for women older than 50 is less than 30 millimeters per hour.
Like the C-reactive protein test, an ESR test does not suggest a specific diagnosis. However, it is useful in detecting and monitoring rheumatic diseases and inflammation.