Rheumatology is the medical field concerned with autoimmune conditions – those diseases that occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own healthy tissue. Bones, muscles, tendons, and more may be affected by rheumatic diseases.
Types of Rheumatic Diseases
There are hundreds of rheumatic diseases. Some are considered to have a genetic component, while others may be triggered by other factors, such as an infection.
Pain and inflammation are common symptoms of many rheumatic diseases. Most of these conditions are chronic and worsen over time. Early detection and treatment can slow progression of many rheumatic diseases. Patients with some types of rheumatic diseases are more likely to suffer complications, such as osteoporosis and degenerative disc disease.
An estimated 46 million Americans suffer from some type of rheumatic disease. The most common of these include:
Many types of arthritis are considered a type of autoimmune disorder (and thus, a rheumatic disease), including:
- Idiopathic juvenile arthritis
- Infectious arthritis (e.g., due to Lyme disease)
- Psoriasis-related arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in which the digestive tract becomes inflamed, causing all kinds of signs and symptoms, such as stomach pain, diarrhea, anemia, unintended weight loss, and fatigue.
It can be challenging to diagnose fibromyalgia because fatigue and muscle pain is its most common symptom, which is also associated with many other medical conditions. Because there is no test for it, a diagnosis often relies on ruling out other possible causes of your symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is very common. Its symptoms are often felt throughout the body, and the condition can negatively impact many aspects of your life, including your sleep, memory, and mood.
Lupus can cause pain and inflammation in many different areas of the body, including your skin, joints, kidneys, heart, and lungs. One of its most tell-tale signs is a rash that appears on both cheeks of the face, resembling a butterfly. Symptoms tend to first appear relatively early in life – during early adulthood.
Scleroderma involves the gradual hardening of your skin, until it becomes so thick and tight that you cannot easily move or flex the affected area. In some cases, scleroderma can harm internal organs and blood vessels. Women are more often diagnosed with scleroderma than men, and it tends to first appear between the ages of 30 and 50.
Dry eyes and dry mouth are the primary signs of Sjogren’s syndrome, in which the glands that produce tears and saliva become damaged and fail to produce sufficient quantities of these fluids. Sjogren’s syndrome often occurs along with other rheumatic diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
The goal of treating rheumatic diseases is centered around relieving a patient’s symptoms. For the vast majority of rheumatic diseases, there is no cure.
At CMPM, our rheumatology providers are skilled and knowledgeable in approaches that can successfully control your symptoms. Medications used to treat rheumatic diseases include corticosteroids (which reduce inflammation), immunosuppressants (that reduce the body’s immune system response), biologics (which are genetically engineered to block the inflammatory action of the immune system), and painkillers.
In addition, physical therapy, immobilizing splints or braces, assistive devices, and alternative therapies such as acupuncture and yoga, may also be incorporated into a patient’s treatment plan for the best overall treatment results.
If you’re one of the millions suffering from a rheumatic disease, there is hope. Call your Consolidated Medical Practices of Memphis rheumatology provider’s office for more information about your treatment options or to schedule a doctor’s visit. You can find their phone number by clicking their name above or by visiting our Make an Appointment page.