Rheumatic diseases (rheumatism) are painful conditions usually caused by inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joints or muscles. Rheumatism is not a single disease. It pertains to a whole range of conditions, all of which cause pain. Rheumatism is more common among the middle aged and elderly people. The exact cause of most forms of rheumatism is not known. Exposure to wet and cold may aggravate the pain.
There are many types of rheumatism, and some of the most common ones are:
Rheumatoid arthritis, the body's immune system attacks its own tissues, causing joint pain, swelling, and stiffness that can be severe. Arthritis literally means inflammation of one or more joints. Arthritis is frequently accompanied by joint pain. The condition can result in permanent joint damage and deformity.
The causes of arthritis depend on the form of arthritis. Causes include injury (leading to degenerative arthritis), abnormal metabolism (such as gout and pseudogout), inheritance (such as in osteoarthritis), infections (such as in the arthritis of Lyme disease), and an overactive immune system (such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus). Treatment programs, when possible, are often directed toward the precise cause of the arthritis.
Joint pain and swelling
Involvement of multiple joints (usually in a symmetrical pattern)
Other organ involvement
Joint stiffness, especially in the morning
Lumps called rheumatoid nodules
Diagnosis is done on the basis of medical history and physical examination. Also, X-rays and blood tests will likely be taken. One blood test may be for rheumatoid factor; it is positive in 70% to 80% of those with RA.
Osteoarthritis causes damage to the cartilage over time. Cartilage is a material that cushions the end of bones and allows joints to move smoothly. As cartilage of a joint wears down, this movement becomes painful or limited. It usually affects the knees, hips, lower back, neck, and fingers.
Pain in joint
Joint may be warm to touch
Muscle weakness and joint instability
Pain when walking
Difficulty gripping objects
Difficulty dressing or combing hair
Difficulty sitting or bending over
To diagnose OA, medical history is needed. Symptoms will be studied and physical examination will be done. Blood tests may help rule out other types of arthritis or medical problems. A joint fluid sample from an affected joint may also be examined to eliminate other conditions.
Usually by the time someone with OA seeks treatment, there are changes visible on an X-ray of the joint. The X-ray may show narrowing of the joint space or the presence of bone spurs. In some cases, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be done.
SLE or systemic lupus erythematosus is another autoimmune disease. Arthritis in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is one of the most common disease manifestations. Nearly all joints can be affected by SLE, but hand and knee involvement are the most typical. Periarticular structures can be inflamed leading to tendonitis, tenosynovitis and tendon rupture.
Rashes, including the "butterfly rash" across the cheeks
Discoloration of the fingers or toes when exposed to cold (called Raynaud's phenomenon)
Internal organ involvement, such as the kidneys
Blood disorders, such as anemia and blood clots
Chest pain from inflammation of the lining of the heart or lungs
Seizures or strokes
To diagnose lupus, your doctor will ask about your medical history, do a physical exam, and order lab tests of blood and urine samples. One blood test is the antinuclear antibody test (ANA). Most people with lupus have a positive ANA blood test.
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) usually starts gradually as lower back pain. The hallmark feature of AS is the involvement of the joints at the base of the spine. This is where the spine attaches to the pelvis, also known as the sacroiliac joints. Ankylosing spondylitis is more common in young men, especially from the teenage years to age 30.
Gradual pain in the lower back and buttocks
Lower back pain that worsens and works its way up the spine
Pain felt between the shoulder blades and in the neck
Pain and stiffness in the back, especially at rest and on arising
Pain and stiffness get better after activity
Pain in the middle back and then upper back and neck (after 5-10 years)
With progression of AS, the spine may become stiffer. It may become difficult to bend for common everyday activities.
To diagnose AS, your doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam. X-rays of the back looking at the sacroiliac joints may help in making an AS diagnosis. A positive blood test for HLA-B27 protein may help confirm a diagnosis as well.
Sjogren's syndrome is an inflammatory, autoimmune disease. It can occur with other autoimmune diseases such as RA and lupus, but also on its own. Although the cause of Sjogren's is unknown, it is more common in women.
Dry eyes (the glands in eyes do not make adequate tears)
Eye irritation and burning
Dry mouth (the glands in mouth do not give adequate saliva)
Dental decay, gum disease, thrush
Swelling of the parotid glands on the sides of the face
Joint pain and stiffness (rarely)
Internal organ diseases (rarely)
To diagnose Sjogren's syndrome, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Blood tests and other tests may also be performed. A simple biopsy of the inner lip or other area may help confirm the diagnosis.
Treatments for Rheumatic Diseases
Treatments for rheumatic diseases include medications to improve symptoms and control disease. Along with drugs, other parts of a treatment plan include:
Diet – Good Foods
Selenium – Multiple arthritis may occur due to Selenium deficiency. Foods such as sunflower seeds, wheat bran, oat bran and pistachios are good source of selenium.
Copper – Copper deficiency may also result in rheumatism. Foods such as flax seeds, prunes, apricots, dates, cashews, almonds and pistachio are a good source. Sesame seeds products are a good source too as it aids in pain relief from rheumatoid arthritis. It may help reduce swelling and have additional anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
Base of Fenugreek – It is a traditional medicine used to cure Arthritis in India and China.
Apple Cider Vinegar - Massage the sore joints with a liniment made up of 2 egg whites, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Also, simply taking the apple cider vinegar tonic (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) before each meal has been an effective natural healing home remedy for many people.
Cinnamon and Organic Honey – Arthritis patients may take daily (morning and night) one cup of hot water with two tablespoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder. When taken regularly even chronic arthritis can be cured.
Omega 6 Fatty Acids – Most Omega-6 fatty acids are consumed from vegetable oil, often used in cooking. Omega-6 fatty acids come in several different types: linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid. The body converts linoleic acid to gamma-linolenic acid to arachidonic acid. Foods high in linoleic acid include vegetable oil (sunflower, soybean, corn, sesame, cottonseed, grapeseed and walnut), Nuts (walnuts, Brazil, almonds and cashews), and seeds (flax, hemp, sunflower, sesame, pine nuts, and pumpkin). Foods high in gamma-linolenic acid include evening primrose oil, borage oil and black currant seed oil.