Rheumatology – Farrer Park Hospital
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What is Rheumatology?
​Rheumatology is the medical specialty that is devoted to the study of rheumatism, arthritis and other disorders of the joints, muscles and ligaments and to the diagnosis and treatment of these ailments. These diseases can also affect the eyes, skin, nervous system and internal organs. Rheumatologists are best trained to treat inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis or other immunological disorders.
It is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints gradually deteriorates. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that permits smooth joint motion. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage gradually wears off completely and bone ends up rubbing with bone. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine.
Symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Pain in the joint during or after movement;
- Stiffness of the joint especially when you wake up in the morning or after a period of inactivity;
- Reduced flexibility so you may be unable to move the limb to its full extent;
- Grating sensation when you use the joint;
- Extra bits of bone, which feel like hard lumps, may appear around the affected joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that usually affects the lining of the small joints in your hands and feet, causing painful swellings that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. It is an autoimmune disorder, which means that your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body's tissues. In addition to causing joint problems, rheumatoid arthritis sometimes can affect other organs of the body — such as the skin, eyes, lungs and blood vessels. Although rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, it usually begins after age 40. The disorder is much more common in women.
Gout is an another form of arthritis. Men are more likely to get gout, but women can develop gout after menopause.
Symptoms of gout can include:
- Intense joint pain usually in your big toe, but it can occur in your feet, ankles, knees, hands and wrists;
- Lingering discomfort after the most severe pain subsides;
- Inflammation and redness of the joint or joints which are also swollen and tender;
- Decreased joint mobility may occur as gout progresses.
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms are often similar to those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many but not all cases of lupus.
Other signs and symptoms that you may experience will depend on which body systems are affected by the disease. The most common signs and symptoms include:
- Fatigue and fever;
- Joint pain, stiffness and swelling;
- Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure;
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when you are cold or under stress;
- Shortness of breath;
- Chest pain.
​For the treatment of osteoarthritis, medications such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce pain and maintain joint movement. Your doctor may also suggest that you go for physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the affected joint so as to improve flexibility and reduce pain. An occupational therapist can also advise you on doing your job without putting extra stress on your already painful joint. Your doctor may recommend shoe inserts or other devices that can minimize pain when you stand or walk.
In joint replacement surgery, your surgeon removes your damaged joint surfaces and replaces them with plastic and metal parts. The hip and knee joints are those most commonly replaced. However, artificial joints can wear out or come loose and may need to be replaced.
For the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, many effective therapies are available. Early diagnosis and early treatment is the key to good outcome. Medications can reduce inflammation in your joints in order to relieve pain and prevent or slow down joint damage. Occupational and physical therapy can teach you how to protect your joints. If your joints are severely damaged by rheumatoid arthritis, surgery may be necessary. Your doctor may send you to a therapist who can teach you exercises to help keep your joints flexible. The therapist may also suggest new ways to do daily tasks, which will be easier on your joints. There are also devices to make it easier to avoid stressing your painful joints.
Gout is treatable and medications can prevent future attacks. These drugs include anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving pills or injections and medications to block the production of uric acid to reduce your risk of gout. You could suffer side effects such as a rash, stomach pain and kidney stones.
While there's no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms. The medications most commonly used to control lupus include anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-malarial drugs and drugs that suppress your immune system.
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