Pain and swelling of joints (arthritis) is a common problem among many patients. Each one of us knows at least one patient who suffers from joint pains. But, how many of us know about Rheumatologist? Rheumatology is a newer branch of Medicine, which deals with arthritis and related diseases. However, due to lack of awareness, many patients suffer for years before meeting a Rheumatologist. 

What are the causes of arthritis?

Our body structure is made of bones and the space between 2 bones is the joint. Disease of the joint is called arthritis.

Scientifically speaking, most cases of arthritis (join pain) can be divided into 2 categories. First, when elderly patients develop joint pain only in the knee joints that is due to age-related damage to the cushion of the joints. This is known as osteo-arthritis. Good physiotherapy & sometimes surgery is needed for these patients.

However, if a young person develops pain in more than 2 joints, or has swelling of these joints, then it can be a rheumatic disease leading to arthritis. This type of arthritis needs different medicines to be started in time. There are more than 100 types of such arthritis and your rheumatologist can help you.

Who should meet a Rheumatologist?

Patients suffering from joint pain, skin rash, recurrent mouth ulcers, worsening muscle weakness and dryness of eyes and mouth should seek Rheumatology consultation. Rheumatic diseases are commoner in young individuals, especially in females.

Among male patients who are less than 40 years of age, presence of lower-back pain can be a symptom of a rheumatic disease. This back pain is worst in the morning, and starts to improve with some movement and hot water bath. These patients should immediately consult a rheumatologist.

What is the cause of rheumatic diseases?

Rheumatic diseases are caused by autoimmunity. Autoimmunity means that the immune (defense) system of these patients wrongly attacks against its own tissues like joints, lungs and skin. Exact reason for such change is not known, but some genetic reasons and some infections are thought to be responsible. Effective treatment can suppress this misdirected immune attack. Most rheumatic diseases can be well controlled if treatment is started in time. With good treatment permanent damage can be prevented. 

What are the common rheumatic diseases?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Ankylosing spondlitis (AS), Psoraitic arthritis, dermatomyositis-polymyositis, Sjogren syndrome, Gout and Systemic sclerosis are among some rheumatic diseases. We will discuss regarding these diseases in later posts.