All you need to know about “inflammatory rheumatism”
Known to be very painful, and even disabling, inflammatory rheumatic conditions affect mainly the joints of the body, manifesting as various diseases. How can these maladies be distinguished from other forms of rheumatism? What are the causes, symptoms and, after diagnosis, the types of treatments that can be proposed?
The main types of rheumatism
In broad terms, rheumatism covers all pain associated with the joints, muscles, bones, tendons and even ligaments. There are distinctly varying causes and symptoms from case to case and it is therefore important to make the distinction between inflammatory rheumatism and other forms of rheumatic conditions.
- degenerative rheumatism most commonly occurs with age. Osteoarthritis is the most common form and entails abnormal “mechanical” wearing down of the cartilage and the entire joint.
- periarticular rheumatism affects the “soft” areas surrounding the joints. In most cases the patient experiences pain in the muscles (fibromyalgia), tendons (tendonitis) or ligaments.
- osseous rheumatism causes bone to become increasingly fragile. Eventually, this loss of resistance results in susceptibility to fractures. The most well-known example is osteoporosis, which makes bones more porous.
- inflammatory rheumatism covers various diseases which have the common feature of causing inflammatory pain in one or more joints and which can occur at any age (it is not linked to aging). Among the most frequently occurring diseases are rheumatoid arthritis and even ankylosing spondylitis.
Various factors, combined at times , can contribute to triggering inflammatory rheumatism:
- genetics. As is often the case, genetics play a determining role and can be a sufficient cause for contracting a disease like rheumatoid arthritis. It is known, in the case of ankylosing spondylitis, that many patients had a genetic predisposition favouring the disease by virtue of possessing the HLA B27 gene.
- infection. Sometimes a bacterium or virus is the cause of a joint becoming contaminated, consequently leading to inflammation.
- autoimmune factors. In such cases, it is the body’s immune system itself that is the cause. It produces “abnormal” antibodies which go about attacking the joints.
Inflammation is the normal process by which the body reacts to a threat. Except that, in the case of inflammatory rheumatism, the inflammation develops further and goes on to damage the joint. Depending on the trigger and depending on the disease, the symptoms will vary for each patient. however, common symptoms may be observed, which should alert attention:
- joint pain (in one or more joints), which often flares up at night and does not recede under resting conditions
- back and/or neck pain
- swelling and deformity of the joints
- fairly intense fatigue
- difficulty performing daily tasks
- flare-ups of varying intensity
How is it medically treated?
If one or more of the symptoms mentioned above is present, you must see a physician at once. He will be able to determine the nature of the disease and evaluate its severity. If it is diagnosed at an early stage, it can be managed in such a way as to avoid certain complications. Here is a list of the various treatments that can be prescribed:
- anti-inflammatory drugs
- prophylactic treatments to stop or at least slow down the progress of the disease by reducing flare-ups. These are used only for severe forms of the disease, and can be in the form of immunodepressant drugs or biotherapy
- physiotherapy sessions
- occupational therapy sessions
- a fitted orthotic device to support the joint structure