Rheumatism brings to mind the pain of joints and bones, but a disease with this name does not exist. Within rheumatology there are rheumatic diseases with a more complex definition than rheumatism itself. Rheumatic pains, contrary to appearances, are not only a disorder of elderly people. Rheumatism can also affect young people and significantly impede normal functioning. How to recognize him?
What is rheumatism?
Rheumatism in colloquial language is defined as muscle pain and joint pain along with edema, redness and functional disorders of the musculoskeletal system. All pathological diseases and ailments are common pathological processes that occur in the connective tissue. Their symptoms are visible in all organs and tissues – these processes manifest themselves in chronic inflammatory states. These are signs of disorders in the functioning of the immune system in the connective tissue.
The most common rheumatic diseases include:
- rheumatoid arthritis;
- Reiter’s team;
- ankylosing spondylitis;
- psoriatic arthritis.
Typical arthritis, which we commonly call “rheumatism”, in contrast to the above diseases have a relatively mild course. In general, they take years and can be a cause of disability in the area of motor organs.
Osteoarthritis and bone pain are the most common reason for patients to report to doctors. They concern about 30% of people. Both old and young people suffer from rheumatism. Rheumatoid diseases and collagen diseases (chronic connective tissue inflammation) are, in turn, a problem primarily of relatively young people, possibly middle-aged people. The exception is juvenile chronic arthritis, or Still’s disease.
Causes and symptoms of rheumatism
The causes of rheumatism have not been known yet. Probable causes of rheumatic diseases include immune-stimulating viruses that start attacking their own tissues. However, it is not known until the end whether they have a decisive influence on the formation of rheumatic diseases. In the development of this type of diseases, genetic and family predispositions seem to be of great importance.
In rheumatic pains, the immune system plays a key role, which, as a result of activation, acts destructively on the connective tissue. Inflammatory processes are present in various systems and organs – it depends on the type of disease. In arthritis, such changes are found mainly in joints and periarticular tissues. In polymyositis, the changes affect the skeletal muscle blood vessels.
Rheumatism manifests itself in characteristic joint pain, difficulty in performing movements, joint stiffness, swelling of limbs and their redness. The location of rheumatic pains and edema helps in the proper diagnosis of the disease. If the symptoms are associated with small joints, many indications of rheumatoid arthritis.
Pain in the joints of the spine and the iliac rim are typical for ankylosing spondylitis. Reiter’s syndrome can be suspected in patients with dermatitis who also have inflammatory changes in the iris and cornea of the eye, and purulent urethritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis can cause severe joint distortions. Then there is a risk of significant disability. It is possible to contort the fingers with the loss of small muscles responsible for the precision of movements. A characteristic symptom of this rheumatic disease are nodules located in the tendons and under the skin above the joints. Ankylosing spondylitis may result in bending of the spine. Accompanying edema and backbone pain are usually transient, but the patients are particularly troubled by ailments of the osteoarticular system.
Diagnosis and treatment of rheumatism
Rheumatism in the common sense is easily recognizable, but professional diagnosis is not always so simple. Only laboratory and imaging tests allow for definitive diagnosis of the disease. For rheumatic diseases, increased blood circulation is characteristic, increased concentration of the so-called acute phase proteins, anemia and a reduced number of white blood cells.
Immunological examination and radiological examination are of great importance in the diagnosis of rheumatism. X-ray pictures allow to see changes in joints and periarticular tissues. Computer tomography and magnetic resonance imaging reveal early changes in diseased tissues. Histopathological examinations are also very important, eg biopsies of the skin, muscles or organs affected by the disease.
Methods of treatment of rheumatism include physiotherapy and physical rehabilitation, reconstructive surgery – with irreversible changes in the joints. Pharmacological treatment is also used, where analgesics are used, and plasmapheresis, a procedure involving the exchange of plasma.