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What do you mean by Arthritis?

Arthritis means inflammation of a joint. “Arth” means joint and “-itis” means inflammation. Inflammation is a medical term that comprises 5 features i.e. pain, swelling, stiffness, warmth and limited movement of a joint. 


How many types of arthritis exist?

Arthritis is divided into two major groups - first, osteoarthritis and second - arthritis with features of rheumatism - rheumatic diseases.


What do you mean by osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is also known as arthritis of aging people. Other reasons to have osteoarthritis is an injury to the joint and any abnormal alignment of joint since childhood. In osteoarthritis, the soft cartilage of the joint, which act as a cushion, undergoes wear and tear and as the disease progress, the cushion losses its height at the cushioning effect in the joint. The common joint affected in osteoarthritis are knees, followed by hip and spine. It may also affect the small joints of fingers and toes, especially great toe – commonly known as hallux valgus. Osteoarthritis is a green flag disease means- it does not directly harm vital organs of the body and the disease is localized to a particular joint.


What are Rheumatic diseases?

Rheumatic diseases are autoimmune diseases. There are more than 100 rheumatic diseases that can affect the joints. They are red flag diseases – means they not only affect the joints but other vital organs of the body like lungs, eyes, kidneys, skin, heart and many more. Their onset needs to be paid attention at the earliest and should be diagnosed at the earliest to treat the disease and prevent damage to vital organs including joints. Of all rheumatic diseases, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the commonest. 


What is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

RA usually involves the small joints of hand and feet, including wrist joint. It can affect large joints like knee and ankle joint. Patients of RA usually complains of swelling of small joints of hands/feet and the wrist, worse in the morning, associated with morning stiffness of joints that improves as the day progresses. These are the earliest symptoms of RA or any other rheumatic disease involving joints.


What are other rheumatic diseases?

Other rheumatic diseases include - spondyloarthritis (ankylosing spondylitis) – early morning low back pain in young male, psoriatic arthritis– joint swelling/pain in patients of psoriasis (a skin disease), gout – joint swelling/pain of great toe due to high levels of uric acid in blood, lupus (SLE) – other than joints associated features include increase hair fall, mouth ulcers, sunlight sensitive skin etc., scleroderma - features include finger, toes turning white or blue on exposure to cold, ILD etc., Sjogren syndrome– associated with dryness of mouth and eyes, vasculitis – joint pains associated with gangrene of toes/fingers. 


Who all are affected by rheumatic diseases?

Unlike osteoarthritis, the rheumatic disease is usually a disease of young and middle age people. Women are three times more affected compared to men. Rheumatic diseases in children are called juvenile arthritis (JIA).


Who is a rheumatologist?

Like cardiologist takes care of heart diseases, oncologist treat various cancers, a rheumatologist is specially trained to diagnose and treat rheumatic diseases.


Why a rheumatologist?

The first weeks and months following the onset of rheumatic disease symptoms are known as the “window of opportunity,” and it is crucial that patients get appropriate treatment in that time period to avoid long-term complications. A rheumatologist diagnoses one of the rheumatic diseases early on and treats them early on, and prevent irreversible disability


Is there treatment for the arthritis of rheumatic diseases?

Patients usually take painkillers for their arthritis. Painkillers give relief from pain; they do not have any effect on the disease. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are medicines used for the management of rheumatic diseases. ‘Disease-modifying’ means the power to stop the disease progression. Sooner the patient starts DMARDs for her/his rheumatic disease, lesser the chance of any damage to joints and other organs. 

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