Rheumatism - Symptoms and Treatment

Rheumatism is an old medical term, which for decades has ceased to be part of medical dictionaries, but that is still widely used by laypeople. Rheumatism usually be employed in the case of diseases of muscle and non-traumatic osteoarticular system origin, which in practice eventually include hundreds diseases from different sources.


Despite being a broad term, it is very common to hear the word rheumatism being used in a more specific way, as if it were synonymous with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. The term rheumatism is also very employed when the patient presents a arthritis above (inflammation of a joint). Remember that there is a huge number of diseases that can cause arthritis, from infections to immune based diseases.

Although there are hundreds of diseases whose symptoms can be rated as rheumatism, in most cases, when someone says that is rheumatism, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis are the real reason.

It is also relatively common to hear the term "rheumatism blood" as a way to describe rheumatic fever, another completely different disease that typically affects children with bacterial tonsillitis untreated. Rheumatism in the blood is not a medical term, not being used in any scientific way.

Currently, rheumatism word has been replaced by the term "rheumatic diseases". It does not say more than the patient has rheumatism, but he has a rheumatologic disease. But more important to say that the patient has a rheumatic disease is to identify which one is concerned, since the origin, symptoms and treatment of each generally being completely different.

The field of medicine that studies the rheumatologic diseases is Rheumatology, and the medical specialist is the rheumatologist.

Although rheumatism is an obsolete term, most of the population still uses, and Internet search engines such as Google, the word "rheumatism" is still much sought after that the term "rheumatic disease". Therefore, as this text is geared toward the lay population, and so that people can more easily find the information they are looking for, I will continue using the word rheumatism, despite having already made it clear that the correct term is even rheumatologic disease (or arthritis, when the clinical picture comes down to an inflammation of the joint).

What is rheumatism - a rheumatologic disease

We can say that rheumatism is a group of diseases characterized by functional abnormalities of the musculoskeletal system of non-traumatic cause. In other words, they are the diseases that affect mainly joints, bones or muscles. But as has been said in the introduction to the text, this term has fallen into disuse for being unspecific. Let us explain.

With the development of modern medicine, we better understand our body tissues and the pathophysiology of many diseases. Over the years, the field of medicine called rheumatology failed to treat only what is called rheumatism and became a connective tissue study area, which is a group of tissues responsible for joining, connect, nurture, protect and sustain other body tissues. Examples of bodies composed of connective tissue or connective tissue cells, we can mention the blood vessels, bones, cartilages, tendons, joint, fat, muscle, and even some cells of the immune system.

Currently, therefore, rheumatology expanded its area of operation far beyond rheumatism, being responsible also for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and vasculitis. Among the diseases that belong to the branch of medicine called rheumatology, we can mention a few examples:

Rheumatic fever, popularly called rheumatism in the blood, it is a disease that can affect the joints, but its more serious condition is the involvement of the heart valves, which is why this disease is usually treated by a cardiologist.

Symptoms of rheumatism / rheumatic diseases

Despite the different origins, some symptoms are common to most rheumatic diseases, for which they were formerly rheumatism calls.

Typical symptoms are rheumatic joint pain which may or may not be accompanied by swelling and functional disability. The presence of inflammation in a joint is called arthritis.

Differences between rheumatism and arthritis

What people call rheumatism is often an arthritis frame, which is inflammation of the joint. When the patient complains of joint pain only, without having any sign of inflammation in the painful joint, we say he has a arthralgia. On the other hand, if the pain is accompanied by joint swelling, redness and local heat, this points to an inflamed joint and the correct name is arthritis.

Many of the diseases listed in the previous section can present arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout most typical diseases. Let's talk briefly of the symptoms of these diseases, which are the most common causes of "rheumatism".

1. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and its main symptom is a symmetrical polyarthritis, or multiple arthritis arising bilaterally, such as both hands, feet, knees, shoulders, etc. Apart from arthritis, is also very common joint stiffness in the morning hours.

If there is no proper treatment, rheumatoid arthritis can cause severe deformities of the joints, especially the hands.

2. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, also known as osteoarthrosis or simply, osteoarthritis is a disease which arises by wear of the cartilage that protects the joint. It is very common in the elderly.

The main symptom of osteoarthritis is pain that typically worsens with physical exertion and relieved by rest. Some patients experience pain gets worse with climate change. As osteoarthritis progresses, pain can arise with increasingly less intensive activities, which can ultimately occur even at rest and at night. Osteoarthritis in advanced stages is a disabling disease.

3. Gout

Gout is an arthritic picture caused by deposition of uric acid within the joint. The gout is usually one monoarthritis, or an isolated arthritis in a single joint body.

The main symptom of Gout is an extremely painful arthritis, which can arise in various joints of the body but is most common in the first metatarsophalangeal joint (hallux or big toe).

Rheumatism treatment

As I hope I have been clear throughout the text, rheumatism is not a single disease, but a term that encompasses various musculoskeletal symptoms of different diseases. Therefore, it is impossible to speak extensively for treatment for rheumatism, since each of the rheumatic diseases has separate treatment.

In general, arthritis are treated with common anti-inflammatory drugs and, in some cases, corticosteroids. In rheumatic diseases of autoimmune origin, the treatment is done with immunosuppressive drugs.

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