What is Rheumatology?
Rheumatology is a branch of medicine dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of diseases involving the joints, muscles and connective tissue (soft tissues). Specialists trained in this field of medicine are called Rheumatologists. There are more than 100 different conditions which come under the banner of rheumatology including gout, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, ankylosing spondylitis, vasculitis and osteoporosis among many others. The term “Rheumatology” is derived from the Greek word “rheuma”, meaning “that which flows as a river or stream” and the suffix “-ology” means “the study of”.
Rheumatology is an exciting field of medicine which is rapidly evolving thanks to the new developments in treatment and understanding of diseases. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential for the management of rheumatological conditions with many patients leading a near normal life.
What is arthritis and who can get it?
Arthritis is a name for a group of conditions affecting the joints which cause symptoms of joint pain and stiffness. Arthritis can affect people from all ages, lifestyles and background and even the children can get arthritis. It is not a disease due to aging as is generally believed but some conditions are more common in the elderly. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and each type affects the joints differently. Some of the common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout and others.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
Patients with arthritis have multiple symptoms but the common ones are pain, stiffness, swelling, redness and warmth over the affected joints and general symptoms like feeling tired, unwell and fatigued.
How can you diagnose arthritis?
Not all joint or muscle pain is due to arthritis. It could be due to injury. You should consult a rheumatologist if the joint pain fails to settle in a few days or is associated with swelling, warmth and redness of the joints. The rheumatologist will ask you questions regarding your symptoms, examine your joints and may order investigations such as x-rays to make a diagnosis.
What are the treatment options for arthritis?
The “window of opportunity” in treatment of arthritis is in the early stages. Hence, it is important to diagnose and treat arthritis early before the joint is permanently damaged. Research and new drug development has made the treatment options for arthritis broader. In this modern era of health care, treatment options for arthritis are available but need to be tailored to the individual needs. Your symptoms can be effectively controlled in most instances with medications or if needed, a joint injection. It is important you discuss with your rheumatologist the various options available for your arthritis.
Are there any lifestyle measures I can take for my arthritis?
Staying active with regular exercise and maintaining an ideal body weight are simple measures to improve your joint symptoms along with the medications your rheumatologist has prescribed. It is important you find out from your Rheumatologist, the type of arthritis you have and how it can affect you. Learn to cope and manage with your pain through other measures. You should use measures when available to protect your joints from injury and gadgets to improve your disability. Maintain an active lifestyle and balance your rest and activities. It is normal to feel scared, frustrated or angry during the course of your treatment due to the physical limitations and pain; feel free to discuss your emotional state with your rheumatologist.