Rheumatology is the branch of medicine targeting specifically rheumatic diseases or disorders affecting the joints, ligaments, muscles, bones as well as the tissues of the musculoskeletal system such as tendinitis, back and neck pain, nerve impingements (sciatica, cervical radiculopathy, carpal tunnel syndrome), bursitis etc. Rheumatic diseases as they progress can cause a loss of function in the joint or limb in which they occur. Rheumatologists treat complex rheumatlogical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis; osteoporosis and osteopenia; lupus; gout; osteoarthritis; Lyme arthritis; scleroderma; Sjogren’s syndrome; antiphospholipid syndrome; psoriatic arthritis; vasculitis, polymyalgia rheumatic; spondyloarthro-pathies and fibromyalgia amongst the 100 types of rheumatic disorders that are already known.
Common symptoms in a rheumatic disorder include joint pain; loss of motion; inflammation such as swelling, redness and warmth in the affected region; stiff joints; fatigue; rashes; sun sensitivity; hair loss; blue or white fingers or toes with exposure to cold also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon; or may be characterized by problems in other organs such as kidneys.
Rheumatic diseases mostly occur in case your immune system malfunctions due to some reason and starts attacking your own body instead of defending it. The cause of the malfunction may be genetic; external such as smoking, pollution or internal such as due to some form of infection and affects women more than men. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) being an autoimmune disease can result in joint pain and damage throughout your body. The difference between joint damage of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is that if a joint in one arm or leg of your body is damaged, the same joint in the other arm or leg may as well get damaged which is one of the ways of distinguishing RA from other forms of arthritis as osteoarthritis (OA).
Often rheumatic diseases go unnoticed as people tend to ignore occasional joint pains or may attribute the reason of chronic pain to strenuous activities. Most of the times, joint pain may be mild and may even subside with change in lifestyle and adequate rest. However, if the pain continues or aggravates, one may just book an appointment with a rheumatologist to ensure effective cure. Several types of tests including X-Ray, Ultrasonography as well as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) help determine the damage done by RA as well as its extent and other organs may as well be examined for damages associated with RA. Though rheumatic diseases may be hard to detect in earlier stages and may go unnoticed until it reaches later stages, a rheumatologist may determine the underlying cause and help you undergo the right form of treatment that usually involves a treatment chart for the patient to follow including regular exercise, healthy diet, stress management, medications and rest.
Dr. Isha Gupta is a rheumatologist with Grecian Super Specialty Hospital, Mohali She is M.D. Medicine and Post Graduate in Rheumatology from Eular, Europe. She has been associated with Grecian Hospital for several years.