Rheumatic diseases are a diverse group of conditions characterised by inflammation and joint pain, often affecting other body parts. They can be complex and multifaceted, making them challenging to understand. These conditions share a common thread in their mechanisms, involving the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking its own healthy tissues and causing inflammatory responses.
Types of Rheumatic Diseases
There are over 100 types of rheumatic diseases, each with unique symptoms, complications, and treatment approaches. Some of the most common forms of rheumatic diseases include:
- Osteoarthritis: A degenerative joint disease where the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones wears down over time, occurring in any joint but commonly affects the hands, knees, hips, and spine.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: An autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling, joint deformity, and erosion of the bone and cartilage.
- Lupus: A form of systemic autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, causing harm to various organs, including the skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs.
- Gout: A form of arthritis characterised by severe pain, redness, and tenderness in joints, often the joint at the base of the big toe.
- Scleroderma: A group of rare diseases that harden and tighten skin and connective tissues.
- Infectious Arthritis: Also known as septic arthritis, it’s an inflammation of a joint caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: The most popular type of arthritis in children under 16, it causes persistent swelling, joint pain, and stiffness.
How to Manage Rheumatic Diseases?
While living with rheumatic diseases can affect your overall quality of life, managing them is possible. Here are some tips to help you keep your condition and symptoms under control:
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to manage rheumatic diseases. Regular exercise helps maintain joint flexibility and strength, while a balanced diet rich in veggies, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins can help reduce inflammation.
Maintaining a healthy weight can also decrease the risk of developing certain types of rheumatic diseases, such as osteoarthritis. Smoking cessation is also critical as it has been linked to an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Regular medical check-ups are crucial for prompt treatment of rheumatic diseases and their possible complications. If you have a family history of rheumatic diseases or experience persistent joint pain, stiffness, or swelling, make sure to discuss these symptoms with your rheumatologist.
Medication and Treatment Adherence
If you have been diagnosed with a rheumatic disease, following your prescribed treatment plan, which may include medication, physiotherapy, and lifestyle modifications, is essential. Regularly taking prescribed medications, even when symptoms improve, can help control the disease and prevent further joint damage.
Understanding rheumatic diseases can seem tricky due to their complexity and diversity. However, with knowledge comes empowerment and better control of one’s health. By recognising the symptoms early and seeking prompt medical intervention, adopting beneficial lifestyle changes, and building a robust support network, managing these conditions effectively and leading a fulfilling life is possible.