WHAT IS RHEUMATOLOGY?
For those who are not familiar with my specialty, a rheumatologist is an internist. Rheumatologistare are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of joints, muscles, and bones. Arthritis is a chronic disease that is characterized by acute and chronic inflammation. It can result in joint destruction, impaired mobility, and sometimes permanent disability.
Autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, are illnesses that occur. When the body’s tissues are attacked by its own immune system. Patients with autoimmune diseases produce special proteins or antibodies in their blood that target tissues within their own body rather than foreign infectious agents like viruses and bacteria, resulting in inflammation.
Many of you don’t know that there are over 100 types of arthritis. Arthritis is the major cause of disability and chronic pain in American women.
WHO SHOULD SEE A RHEUMATOLOGIST?
Anyone who has moderate to severe pain in the joints, muscles, and bones or prolonged history of musculoskeletal complaints with constitutional symptoms should obtain a consult.
Your internist may rule out other common diseases, such as thyroid disease, liver disease, depression, malignancy, infection and Diabetes
We are specially trained to do the necessary detective work. To discover the cause of the swelling and pain. Once the diagnosis is made. The rheumatologist then consults with nurses, physical and occupational therapists. Psychologists and social workers to implement a treatment plan. To help the patient and his or her family to cope with the life changes.
WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?
Some treatment options include analgesics, anti-inflammatory agents (Advil, Naproxen), steroids, immunosuppressive therapies (disease modifying agents, biologic injections), injections of steroids or hylauronic acid, in addition to alternative therapies, like chondroitin and glucosamine supplements and acupuncture.
ARE ALL TYPES OF ARTHRITIS THE SAME?
Once you are diagnosed with arthritis, an autoimmune disease, or musculoskeletal disorder, you may ask yourself or the physician if all arthritic conditions are similar. There are many types of arthritis…..some which are associated with more systemic inflammation than others.
Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and even gout are types of rheumatic diseases that are highly associated with early and accelerated heart disease and high cholesterol resulting in cardiac complications.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A DIAGNOSIS OF ARTHRITIS OR AUTOIMMUNE CONDITION?
The physician should do a cardiac risk assessment involving family and social history, smoking history, cholesterol, blood pressure (BP) and weight measurements, in addition to providing the patient with nutritional and exercise counseling to reduce risk.
Patients who have moderate to high cardiac risk most likely will need medication to reduce disease activity and improve cholesterol, BP to avoid systemic complications.
Don’t forget to engage in aerobic and weight bearing exercises at least three times a week.
Limiting daily alcohol intake and eating a well-balanced diet are important to lower disease activity in arthritis.
Remember that you have control over modifiable cardiac risk factors such as weight, smoking, blood pressure, and cholesterol.