Millions of people around the world are affected by rheumatic conditions that limit mobility, causing pain and other problems. These conditions lead to decreased productivity, missed days of work and healthcare costs that reach into the billions. Rheumatism is a painful condition that causes inflammation, swelling and pain in muscles and joints. Some of these conditions are the result of immune system dysfunction, while others are caused by wear, tear and overuse. There are more than 100 rheumatic conditions, though the cause for many of them is unknown. Medical professionals believe these conditions can be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While these diseases affect men, women and people of all races and ages, some think hormones could play a role because women are more often affected by many of these conditions.
Examples of rheumatic conditions are: osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, vasculitis, lupus, scleroderma, gout, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, bursitis and tendonitis. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says that an estimated 46 million people in the U.S. suffer from arthritis and other rheumatic conditions and this number is expected to jump to 60 million by 2020.
Rest and relaxation should be tempered by activity and are an important step in the treatment process. Exercise, proper diet and appropriate amounts of sleep are also essential. Splints and braces can also be used to add support and/or immobilize certain parts of the body. Pain relief is an important facet in the treatment of rheumatic conditions. Over-the-counter medications work for some who have mild pain. Many others require more potent prescription drugs such as opioid painkillers. These are typically used to treat moderate to severe pain that is episodic or long term. Other types of medications that may be used include topical analgesics, corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. Surgery may also be necessary in order to repair a damaged joint.