Different body parts with pain rings on the hand, leg, feet, spine, skull and pelvis. (Source: Shutterstock)
Definition of rheumatism
The general term “rheumatism” refers to dozens of different diseases of the rheumatic spectrum, which mainly affect the musculoskeletal system.
Patients with rheumatism suffer from blurred and flowing pains, as well as from pulling and tearing pains in the musculoskeletal apparatus. They often come hand in hand with functional limitations.
The spectrum of inflammatory rheumatic diseases is wide and ranges from temporary arthritis of just a few joints without permanent damage to severe progressive arthritis where the joints are destroyed, causing severe disability for the patient.
Many inflammatory rheumatic diseases are not restricted to the musculoskeletal system, and also affect internal organs, eyes or skin; these are systemic diseases who prefer afflicting the musculoskeletal system.
The rheumatic diseases include, e.g.:
connective tissue disease
diseases of soft tissues
Often, joint diseases with infections and partially also degenerative joint and spine diseases are associated with rheumatic diseases.
Causes of rheumatism
For many diseases of the rheumatic spectrum, a disorder of the immune system is manifested, after which the body attacks its own structures, such as the synovium (in rheumatoid arthritis). These so-called "autoimmune diseases" can – in the form of collagenose – occur as systemic diseases in which not only an organ or a body region is targeted, but similar tissue in many diferent organs are targeted by a misguided immune system. The causes for this malfunction of the immune system are still unknown.
Symptoms of rheumatism
Typical symptoms in rheumatic diseases are joint pain, joint swelling, joint stiffness, joint deformity, as well as tendon and bursa pain. Many rheumatic diseases develop symptoms on the eyes as well as on internal organs. General mood disorders can be very strong, especially in acute phases; they affect the entire organism. These include weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss and also moderate fever. Many patients complain of psychological problems or adverse drug reactions.
Diagnosis of rheumatism
For the exact classification of a diagnosis, the detection of antibodies and genetic markers in the patient’s blood is an important factor. Various imaging techniques, in particular the conventional radiography, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and scintigraphy are used to confirm the diagnosis, to determine the stage of the disease and to monitor progress.