What are the types of Rheumatological diseases?
Under the umbrella term ‘arthritis’, there are over 30 inflammatory rheumatic
conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, scleroderma, juvenile
idiopathic arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, spondylarthritides, polymyalgia rheumatica,
and several forms of systemic vasculitis (including giant cell arteritis). It also includes
the most common form of arthritis, known as osteoarthritis, which results in a
breakdown of bone and cartilage in joints due to over use.
Who is a Rheumatologist?
Rheumatologists are responsible for diagnosing and treating over 200 rheumatic
conditions with complex and powerful medications and need the care of experts
such as rheumatologists who specialize in the use and management of these
How can Rheumatic conditions affect you?
Rheumatic conditions have tremendous impact on the health and well-being of
several million people in India and worldwide. Life changing, painful, deforming,
costly, crippling, deadly - these are serious words to describe serious conditions.
Contrary to notions that “aches and pains” are just a normal part of ageing, the
intense joint pain, swelling, stiffness and fatigue experienced by people with
rheumatic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, often occur in people
who are young and often abruptly interrupt education, careers, parenting, and other
essential daily activities.
Rheumatic conditions not only cause inflammation and damage to joints, but can
also cause serious damage to other organs of the body, development of coexisting
conditions, disability, and even death.
What age does Rheumatological problems affect?
75% of patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis are at working age and most
lupus patients develop the condition between the ages of 15-44.
Why is it important for working people to see a rheumatologist?
Rheumatic conditions can cause deformities so severe that those who suffer from
them cannot bathe or dress themselves. Rheumatic conditions can cause damage to
vital organs, including the lungs, heart, nervous system, kidneys, skin, and eyes.
Disability is even higher among patients with inadequately treated rheumatoid
arthritis, with four out of ten losing their jobs within five years. 20% of people with
rheumatic conditions were forced to change career as a result.
What is the cost of poorly treated rheumatic conditions?
With the amount of working days lost due to musculoskeletal conditions, it is
estimated that, if poorly managed, chronic diseases, including rheumatic conditions,
can account for as much as 70% of health expenditure. Many patients suffering with
rheumatic conditions need a carer to help them accomplish everyday tasks such as
cooking or even brushing their hair.
What organs other than joints can be affected by rheumatic conditions?
People with rheumatoid arthritis are twice as likely to develop heart conditions than
the average person. Lupus greatly increases a person’s risk of developing
cardiovascular conditions and suffering from heart attacks. Rheumatic conditions
include inflammation of the lining around the heart, causing a build-up of fluid
leading to heart failure, and abnormal heart rhythms.
More severe eye complications can lead to decreased or complete loss of vision.
One in ten people with rheumatoid arthritis will develop serious lung complications
over the course of their conditions due to damage to the lung tissue. People with
scleroderma can develop scarring of the lungs that can lead to life-threatening
Strokes are also more frequent in patients suffering from several of the rheumatic
conditions including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and giant cell arteritis.
Anemia is a common symptom of most rheumatic conditions including lupus,
rheumatoid arthritis and vasculitis.
Scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus can cause Raynaud’s syndrome – a
cold-induced narrowing of the blood vessels in the fingers and toes that may lead to
painful ulcerations and even gangrene.
Psoriatic arthritis is a particular type of rheumatic condition that occurs in some
patients who have psoriasis. Scleroderma causes hardening of skin.
Rheumatic diseases and their treatment affect kidney. This needs to be detected
early so that there is no permanent damage to kidney.
Other serious conditions, infections and cancer
Pneumonia is the most common infection in lupus patients.
Risk of a heart attack is 60 per cent higher than someone without rheumatoid
Patients with psoriatic arthritis are 50 per cent more likely than the general
public to develop diabetes and fatty liver disease
Scleroderma can cause scarring of the tissues around the heart, which can
lead to abnormal heartbeats and congestive heart failure.
Scleroderma can affect a person’s kidney function and lead to kidney failure
Osteoporosis (brittle bones) is a major health problem in people with
rheumatic conditions, due to the effects of the conditions as well as their
Many rheumatic conditions and their treatments are associated with an
increased risk of cancer, especially blood cancer.