Prepared By: Ece Aydog, Professor, MD
What are arthritis and Rheumatism?
The term ‘rheumatism’ is originated from the Greek "rheuma". This word means ‘flow’ accordingly ‘movement’. Rheumatism is a general term and is used to express pain or ache around the bone, muscles and joints. When rheumatism is mentioned, not a single disease is understood; it contains more than 100 diseases. Some of them are common and some of them are quite rare. The word meaning of arthritis is inflammation seen in one or more joints of the body. Arthritis can affect everyone, including children, at any age, but women have a greater chance of getting these diseases than men do.
The joints connect one bone to the other and are designed to allow the bones to move freely. In the last part of the bones, the joints are covered with a hard, rubbery material called cartilage. As we age, this articular cartilage becomes more vulnerable due to frequent use or injury.
How Many Types of Rheumatism Are There?
There are basically two types of rheumatism:
- Inflammatory rheumatism: There are 3 kinds of rheumatic inflammation:
- Microbial rheumatisms caused by microbes sitting in the joint:Various microbes such as staphylococcus, streptococcus and tuberculosis bacilli cause this rheumatism.
- Inflammation without microbe as a result of the immune system defects: The most important of rheumatism caused by this type are rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and connective tissue diseases (collagen diseases). The most well-known example of the latter group is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
- Another type of inflammation is caused by sitting of crystals particularly uric acid crystals in joints and various tissues. This type of inflammation is seen in gout and pseudo-gout.
- Noninflammatory rheumatism: The most important of these rheumatisms is arthrosis. There is no joint inflammation in arthrosis. However, there is wear. The cartilage inside the joint is thinned and disappears, resulting in bone protrusions on the edges of the joints.Traumas (accident, strike), mechanical causes, metabolic and psychological disorders are the most important causes of rheumatisms that do not cause inflammation.
Common Rheumatic Diseases are:
Soft tissue rheumatism (fibromyalgia, low back, neck pain)
Spondyloarthropathies and ankylosing spondylitis
Vasculitis and Behçet's disease
Familial Mediterranean fever
Acute joint rheumatism
Connective tissue diseases; SLE, polymyositis - dermatomyositis, scleroderma, mixt connective tissue disease
What are the Findings of Arthritis and Rheumatism?
The findings vary greatly depending on the type of arthritis or rheumatism that you have. However, the following findings may suggest that you have arthritis or rheumatism:
Swelling of one or more joints,
Stiffness around joints,
Redness and heat in joints,
Continuous or recurrent pain in the joints
Difficulty in moving or using the joint.
Any joints in the body may be affected, but mostly knees, fingers and hips are involved. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may have a slight fever, loss of appetite and weakness. Arthritis findings tend to worsen in the morning, sometimes in cold and humid weather.
What is the cause of arthritis and rheumatism?
The exact cause of an important part of rheumatic diseases is unknown. It is mostly not infectious or microbial. Hereditary characteristics (genetic predisposition) are important in some of them.
What is the Risk of Arthritis and Rheumatism?
A person of any age, sex and race may have rheumatic disease. Scientists do not know exactly why they emerged. However, you are at greater risk in the following cases:
- To be a woman
- Presence of an individual with rheumatism in your family
- Repeated injuries due to sports or activities related to your work
Can I Prevent Arthritis and Rheumatism?
You cannot prevent arthritis and rheumatism, but you should eat healthy and exercise regularly. This will prevent you from gaining weight, therefore, your joints will not be overloaded. In addition, the prevention of external factors such as smoking, which disturbs the vascular structure, is useful for patients with rheumatism.
How is Arthritis and Rheumatism Diagnosed?
Your doctor will suspect arthritis or rheumatism due to your complaints and your medical history. In most people, it can also be diagnosed by physical examination of the joints especially if large joints are affected. Blood tests may be required to determine what kind of arthritis you have, and usually the radiographic imaging of the affected area will help to confirm the diagnosis.
Whom Can I Apply When I Have Arthritis and Rheumatism?
You can apply to the experienced Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) specialists who have been successful in the treatment of rheumatic diseases for more than 100 years in our country. You can also apply to the Rheumatology and Orthopedics specialists according to the nature and location of your complaints.
How is arthritis and rheumatism treated?
Most arthritis does not have any disease-modifying treatment, however, there are many treatment options that can help normally maintain life. Your treatment will vary depending on the type of arthritis you have and the severity of your complaints. In some people, only a simple daily exercise program can relieve pain and increase range of motion. If you have soft tissue rheumatism, such as tennis elbow or low back pain, your pain may be short-lived and stop without any treatment.
If your joints are painful, there is a wide range of medications to alleviate pain around the joint and reduce inflammation. We can collect these drugs in 3 categories:
- Analgesics (Paracetamol etc.)
- Non-steroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs (Ibufen and Aspirin etc.): These drugs are usually effective within a few hours and effectively reduce pain and inflammation. If they are taken long term, they can cause stomach problems.
- Steroids (Cortisone): In the form of tablets can be taken orally or directly injectable forms can be applied to the affected addition. If taken long term, they may have serious side effects, so they are often used to control severe arthritis.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you can be given disease modifying drugs to prevent your disease progress and reduce inflammation.
If you have been diagnosed with arthritis, it is important to exercise regularly and ask your physician what type of exercise is more appropriate. Swimming is usually the ideal exercise for patients with arthritis. Depending on the nature of your disease, you can benefit from physical therapy agents under the supervision of the PMR specialist. In general, balneotherapy and hotpacks are not good for the treatment of inflammatory joint rheumatism, however these are useful for osteoarthritis and soft tissue rheumatism. Always contact the PMR specialist before deciding to go to the spa.