Rheumatology

Joint Lesson

  • July 1, 2021
  • 2 minutes read

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attack the body’s own tissues besides external infections. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints and the tissue around it, as well as other organs in the body. In the long run, it damages joints and can affect other organs.

Symptoms

  • Multiple joints are inflamed in a symmetrical pattern (both sides of the body affected), often involving small joints of the hands, wrists and feet
  • Difficulty with simple daily tasks, such as turning door knobs and opening jars
  • Occasionally, only one joint is inflamed – like other forms of arthritis such as gout or joint infection

Effects

  • Chronic inflammation can damage body tissues, cartilage and bone
  • Loss of cartilage and erosion and weakness of the bones as well as the muscles
  • Joint deformity, destruction, and loss of function

It is important to note that patients may experience long periods without symptoms, so it is vital to seek professional help when you have the symptoms.

Lupus

“Lupus usually starts when you’re in your 20s to mid-40s. More than half of the patients I see in my clinic are young people.”

Lupus is a condition of chronic inflammation caused by an autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis. Lupus can cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system. The precise cause of lupus is not known; genetics, viruses, and exposure to ultraviolet light and drugs may play a role.

Symptoms

As A/Prof Leong said, “Lupus is also known as the disease with a thousand faces”, so no two cases of lupus are exactly alike. The wide range of symptoms include:

  • Achy joints, arthritis, and swollen joints, especially in wrists, small joints of the hands, elbows, knees, and ankles
  • Swelling of the hands and feet due to kidney problems
  • Fever, rashes, fatigue, sensitivity to sun or light, among others

Effects

Lupus can lead to complications in parts of the body, including:

  • Severe kidney damage that can result in death
  • Damage to the central nervous system, causing headaches, dizziness, memory problems, seizures, and even behavioural changes
  • Increased risk of anaemia, bleeding, blood clotting, and vessel inflammation, non-infectious pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and cancer, among others
  • Increased risk of miscarriage, hypertension during pregnancy, and preterm birth

Lupus is extremely challenging to diagnose; doctors will usually ask a series of questions to determine your condition. If you are suspected of having the disease, they may conduct a range of blood tests for confirmation.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the condition where bones lose their density, leading to abnormally porous bones that are more compressible like a sponge than dense like a brick, as it should normally be. This leads to an increased risk of bone fracture, even with a minor fall or injury. Common areas that sustain bone fractures include the spine, hips, and wrists.

Symptoms

You may have osteoporosis without having any symptoms, until you sustain a painful fracture.

Effects

You will usually experience pain at and around the site of the fracture, such as:

  • Severe “band-like” pain that radiates around from the back to both sides of the body when your spine is fractured; with time, repeated spine fractures can cause chronic back pain as well as loss of height or curving of the spine, which gives the individual a hunched-back appearance
  • Pain in the feet when you sustain stress fractures while walking or stepping off a curb

Since you may have osteoporosis without knowing it, a bone density test is the only test that can diagnose it before a broken bone occurs.

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