Rheumatology is devoted to the diagnosis and therapy of rheumatic diseases, mainly involving joints, soft tissues, autoimmune diseases, and connective tissue disorders. Many of these diseases are now known to be disorders of the immune system. One of the major changes in modern rheumatology is the development of new drugs called biologics, or disease-modifying agents, which can control severe disease more effectively.
Types of Diseases Related to Rheumatology
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term autoimmune disorder that primarily affects joints. It typically results in warm, swollen, and painful joints. Pain and stiffness often worsen following rest. Most commonly, the wrist and hands are involved, with the same joints typically involved on both sides of the body. The disease may also affect other parts of the body resulting in a low red blood cell count, inflammation around the lungs, and inflammation around the heart. Fever and low energy may also be present. Often, symptoms come on gradually over weeks to months.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a type of joint disease that results from the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone. The most common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness. Initially, symptoms may occur only following exercise, but over time may become constant. Other symptoms may include joint swelling, decreased range of motion, and when the back is affected weakness or numbness of the arms and legs. The most commonly involved joints are those near the ends of the fingers, at the base of the thumb, neck, lower back, knee, and hips.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in many parts of the body. Symptoms vary between people and may be mild to severe. Common symptoms include painful and swollen joints, fever, chest pain, hair loss, mouth ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, feeling tired, and a red rash which is most commonly on the face. Often there are periods of illness, called flares, and periods of remission during which there are few symptoms.
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