Rheumatic diseases affect your joints tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles. Among them are many types of arthritis, a term used for conditions that affect your joints. Sometimes they’re called musculoskeletal diseases.
Most of these Rheumatic Disease conditions happen when your immune system goes away and attacks your own tissues. Sometimes it’s in your genes. Other times it’s a result of something around you, like cigarette smoke, pollution, or something that causes an infection. Gender also plays a role. It seems to affect women more than men. Rheumatologists have special interests in unexplained rash, fever, arthritis, anemia, weakness, weight loss, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, autoimmune disease, and anorexia.
Everyone experiences muscle and joint pain from time to time. When the muscle and joint pain is not resolving as one would expect, additional evaluation may be needed. Typically, the primary care physician is seen for the first evaluation. If there is concern for an underlying rheumatic condition, he/she will refer you to rheumatology for evaluation.
Earlier referral should be made if you have relatives with autoimmune or rheumatic disease (as these conditions run in families) or if the symptoms are significantly worsening over a short period of time. Some of the signs and symptoms can improve or temporarily resolve when initially treated but can return once the medication is stopped. If the symptoms continue to return, a rheumatology evaluation may be needed.
Joint damage can occur if the symptoms of joint pain are ignored or not treated properly over a period of time. This damage cannot always be reversed with treatment and may be permanent. Do not delay appropriate evaluation.
RA happens when the immune system attacks your own tissues and causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. It’s not part of normal aging.