A Rheumatologist is a physician who has undergone further specialized training in the management of diseases related to bones, joints, soft tissues, and autoimmunity.
Autoimmune diseases are those where the body’s defense mechanism which should normally protect the body from external infections and insults attack their own body. These diseases commonly affect the joints and hence the umbrella term arthritis may refer to autoimmune diseases. As any organ can be affected by these diseases, other common symptoms include skin rashes, hair loss, fever, weight loss, decreased blood cell counts, or in more severe cases eyes, kidneys, lungs, heart, and brain can also be involved.
Rheumatologic diseases though commonly affect middle-aged women, no age or gender is immune from these conditions. Genetic, Environmental factors, Hormonal imbalance, premature menopause, smoking etc are some of the risk factors for the occurrence of autoimmune diseases.
Joint pains, swelling, and deformity without preceding trauma are the features which require Rheumatology consultation. Pains being more severe in night and early morning joint stiffness for more than 30 minutes are the main features of arthritis. Along with arthritis, doctors look for other symptoms of autoimmune diseases and based on this order special investigations to confirm the disease and its severity. Sometimes blood investigations can be completely normal even in presence of arthritis. Such people are labeled as Seronegative arthritis and treated.
Disease-modifying agents and steroids are the main drugs used in arthritis. These drugs are double-edged sword which requires careful monitoring under Rheumatologists as overdose leads to many adverse effects. Newer drugs like Biologics are into the market at an affordable price to treat severe disabling arthritis with less adverse effects.
Food taboos prevail in society but a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, Protein ( eggs, lean meat, whole grains) and omega 3 fatty acids ( fish, soya, almonds) is advised in arthritis patients. Red meat, refined carbohydrates, fast foods, sugars are better avoided. Avoiding smoking, alcohol, regular exercise, and stress management all help in controlling the disease.
Rheumatologic diseases do not have a definite cure. The earlier the disease is identified and treatment has begun, the better is the prognosis.