Arthritis/Rheumatism

DEFINITION:

Rheumatism: A general term for acute and chronic conditions characterized by inflammation, soreness and stiffness of muscles, and pain in joints and associated structures. It includes arthritis (infectious, rheumatoid, gouty); arthritis due to rheumatic fever or trauma/ degenerative joint disease: neurogenic arthropathy; hydroarthrosis; myositis; bursitis; fibromyositis; and many other conditions.

Arthritis: Inflammation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling and frequently, changes in structure. Other forms of arthritis include ankylosing spondylitis (AS), and the systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

CAUSES: May result from or be associated with a number of conditions including: infection (gonococcal , tuberculous, pneumonococcal ; rheumatic fever; ulcerative colitis; trauma; neurogenic disturbances; degenerative joint disease such as osteoarthritis; metabolic disturbances such as gout ; neoplasms such as synovioma; hydrarthrosis; para- or periarticular conditions such as fibromyositis, myositis, or acromegaly, psoriasis, Raynaud’s disease.

SYMPTOMS: Arthritis is characterized by inflammation and/or pain in a joint(s). It may appear suddenly or start gradually. Chronic arthritis symptoms are: pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformity of one or more joints. Some people feel sharp burning or grinding pain. Others compare the pain to the toothache. Movement of the joint usually hurts, although there may only be stiffness.

There are many different forms of arthritis. The most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, is related to the wear and tear of aging and involves deterioration of the cartilage at the ends of the bones. The once smooth surface of cartilage becomes rough, resulting in friction. The tendons, ligaments, and muscles holding the joint together become weaker, and the joint itself becomes deformed, painful, and stiff. There is usually some pain, but little or no swelling. Any disablement is usually minor. Osteoarthritis rarely develops before the age of 40 and inflicts 15.8 million Americans. It typically runs in families, but afflicts almost 3 times as many women as men.

Rheumatoid and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are types of inflammatory arthritis that attack the synovial membranes (supply the joint fluids) surrounding the lubricating fluid in the joints. The cartilage tissues in and around the joints and often the bone surfaces are destroyed. The body replaces this damaged tissue with scar tissue, causing the spaces between the joints to become narrow, to develop folds, and to fuse together. The entire body is affected instead of just one joint as in osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis creates stiffness, swelling, fatigue, anemia, weight loss, fever, and often crippling pain. It often occurs in people under 40 years of age, including young children. Currently, 2.1 million Americans are afflicted; twice as many women as men. Juvenile arthritis affects 71,000 young Americans (18 and younger); six times as many girls as boys.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) affects certain joints of the spine, which become inflamed, stiffen, become rigid, and then fuse together.

Systemic lupus erythematosus(SLE) is a malfunction of the body's immune system. For reasons unknown, the body produces antibodies that act against itself. Although it mimics rheumatoid arthritis and results in painful and inflamed joints, SLE is not a crippling disease.

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