Rheumatism causes symptoms treatment practical doctor

Millions of people in the world suffer from rheumatism. The most common form is rheumatoid arthritis. In Germany alone, about 530 people suffer from.000 people suffer from this chronic joint inflammation.

Although there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, most patients experience significant relief with the right treatment. However, in order for early therapy to take place, it is important to recognize and correctly interpret the rheumatism symptoms. How rheumatism manifests itself, what treatment options are available, what triggers the disease and what diet has to do with rheumatism, we explain below.

What is rheumatism?

Worldwide, about 0.5 to 1 percent of all people suffer from rheumatism. However, rheumatism is not a single disease, but rather a collective term for a variety of different conditions. Between 100 and 200 diseases are subsumed under the term by physicians. These diseases can be roughly divided into four groups according to the German Rheumatism League:

– inflammatory rheumatic diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis) – degenerative joint diseases (such as osteoarthritis) – soft tie rheumatism (such as fibromyalgia) – metabolic diseases with rheumatic symptoms (such as gout)

The individual diseases differ, among other things, in the frequency of occurrence and age of the patients, the affected body structures and their symptoms. Almost all of these diseases affect the musculoskeletal system, are caused by inflammation and are associated with pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis

The term "rheumatism" is used colloquially to mean the following often a very specific rheumatic disease: the so-called rheumatoid arthritis (formerly: chronic polyarthritis). It usually occurs on both halves of the body at the same time and affects several joints. Strictly speaking, it is mainly the inner skin of the joints that is inflamed, as well as tendon sheaths and bursae.

Rheumatoid arthritis can occur as early as childhood, but for most patients it begins between the ages of 40. and 60. Year of life. Women are affected by this inflammatory joint disease twice as often as men.

Without treatment, the inflammation of the joints spreads to joint cartilage and bones. In the worst case, the joint cartilages are completely destroyed, which can severely impair mobility and lead to a loss of working ability and a considerable reduction in quality of life. In some patients, certain organs such as the heart or lungs may also be affected, which can reduce life expectancy by several years.

Rheumatism – Causes

The causes of rheumatoid arthritis have not yet been clearly clarified scientifically. However, immune system dysfunction is thought to play a role. Instead of only fighting foreign substances, the immune system of patients with rheumatoid arthritis does not seem to recognize the body's own tie. Instead, the body's own immune cells enter the joints and trigger inflammation, which over time leads to the destruction of cartilage, joint ligaments and bones.

In addition to the autoimmune processes described above, there are other factors that are probably also involved in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Both genetic factors (hereditary predisposition) and harmful environmental influences (such as smoking) are being discussed. It is possible that a variety of causes and risk factors simultaneously lead to the rheumatism disease. These include the following described.

Causes and risk factors for rheumatism

Gender – Women are affected more often than men Age – in most cases the disease begins in middle age Hereditary factors – If a family member already has rheumatism, there is an increased chance of developing the disease Smoking – Smoking increases the risk of the disease and leads to severe forms Obesity – obese people especially women under the age of 55 are more affected Stress – Permanent stress weakens and irritates the immune system Environmental influences – for example, asbestos is considered carcinogenic and also a trigger of other diseases Intestinal diseases – diseases such as Crohn's disease have been shown to cause inflammation outside the intestine as well

Rheumatism can occur at any age. Not only old people are affected, it can also affect teenagers and young adults. However, as described above, women on average develop rheumatism more often and 10 years earlier than men, and older people are affected more often than young people. Joint pain is also often felt more strongly by women than by men.

Rheumatism – Symptoms

Like all rheumatic diseases, rheumatoid arthritis is usually episodic and passes through several stages of the disease. The symptoms often appear and intensify over several weeks and months. Following the rheumatism symptoms are presented:

In the first stage, there are often non-specific symptoms, such as loss of appetite, fatigue or mild fever and night sweats. Since these can also indicate serious tumor diseases, a clarification by a doctor is indicated in any case.

Rheumatism symptoms at a glance

As the disease progresses, the symptoms become more specific: joints become stiff and swollen, finger and toe joints redden, swell, and feel warm and stiff. In some patients, other joints in the hands, feet, shoulders or knees are also affected (or only later in the course of the disease), sometimes the upper cervical spine as well. The swellings increase. Lead to deformation of the joints over time. At the same time their mobility decreases. They cause severe pain (especially at night). Other symptoms usually occur symmetrically. This means that the complaints in individual joints usually occur on both sides of the body, for example on the left and right knee at the same time.

If at least three joints are inflamed over a period of at least six weeks, the doctor performs a blood test with subsequent blood analysis. If typical antibodies such as the so-called rheumatoid factor are found in the blood, the doctor can diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. X-rays can be used to determine whether the inflammation has already led to joint damage and, if so, the extent of the damage.

Overview of rheumatism symptoms

– Very tender, warm, red, swollen joints – Stiff joints, especially in the morning after getting up – Fingers and toe joints are affected, especially in the early stages – Numbness and tingling in hands and feet – Cold hands and cold feet – Joint pain at night – Tiredness and fatigue – Slight fever – Loss of appetite – Dry mouth and eyes – Heavy breathing (if the rheumatic inflammation also affects the lungs)

Rheumatism – Treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis is not curable. Nevertheless, in order to get the best possible help, one should consult a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is usually a specialist in internal medicine with a focus on rheumatology. In addition, physicians can specialize in orthopedic rheumatology through further training.

Basically, the best treatment depends on the individual case and the course of the disease. The course of the disease can be very different. With some patients the typical rheumatism symptoms appear only once. Have then disappeared again for years. In other patients, the inflammation can lead to complete destruction of the joints in a very short time and even affect organs, thus threatening their lives.

A good treatment can slow down or stop the inflammatory processes in the joints and thus alleviate the patients' complaints. The most important goal is to significantly reduce pain and to maintain joint mobility for as long as possible. Various treatments are used for this – often in combination:

Drug therapy: is basically to prevent or slow down the progression of the disease with the help of pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs (basic therapy) and to relieve the symptoms in the case of a severe disease flare-up (acute therapy) Physiotherapy: supports muscle development and helps maintain muscle strength and joint mobility Occupational therapy: helps patients to cope with the disease on a day-to-day basis Physical therapy (heat, cold or electrotherapy): mainly serves to relieve acute pain

If the disease is already very advanced, surgery may be necessary to stiffen the joints or replace them with a medical prosthesis.

Nutrition for rheumatism

In addition to the above-mentioned therapies, diet also plays a major role in the treatment of rheumatism. Many foods contain the so-called arachidonic acid. This is a substance that promotes inflammation and can therefore aggravate rheumatic complaints. Arachidonic acid is found primarily in sausage and meat, but also in high-fat dairy products and eggs. Fish also contains the substance, but in smaller quantities and with fewer fatty acids. For this purpose, fish varieties such as herring or salmon contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered to be beneficial to health. In order to consume as little arachidonic acid as possible in the diet, rheumatism patients should therefore limit the consumption of meat and sausage to a minimum and eat fish about twice a week.

Dairy products should not be avoided in principle. The protein and calcium it contains is too important for strengthening bones and preventing osteoporosis. Rheumatism patients should choose low-fat dairy products, which contain plenty of protein and calcium, but little arachidonic acid. For example, yogurt, quark or cheese, but also low-fat milk, can be used.

Important: A healthy diet, preferably low in meat, can support rheumatism therapy. However, it is not a substitute for medical treatment.

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