Rheumatology is a field of medicine that is focused on chronic inflammatory conditions. Rheumatologists are experts in diagnosing and managing these conditions, and they are constantly finding ways to make daily life easier for people living with conditions such as arthritis and lupus. Below, we take a closer look at the field of rheumatology.
What are rheumatic diseases?
Rheumatic diseases include gout, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and scleroderma, plus many others. As a general rule, these conditions affect the joints in your body.
They are disorders of the immune system. Normally, your immune system helps to fight infections and unhealthy cells in your body, but with a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system gets confused and attacks healthy body tissue instead.
This leads to inflammation in the bones, muscles, joints and internal organs. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and treatment will vary depending on the condition.
In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, it is not known what causes the immune system to start attacking healthy tissue. Contrary to popular belief, you can develop it at any age.
How can a rheumatologist help?
Any chronic condition is life-long, so finding a good rheumatologist is vital. They will have an ongoing record of your conditions and treatments and will be able to advise you each time your symptoms flare up.
While the causes are not known, there are a few factors that may be linked to rheumatic diseases. In some conditions, genetics can play a factor – your family history might be indicative of a disease that has been passed down via faulty genes.
However, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis are more common in women than men, which suggests there may also be a link to the hormones in your body. Smoking is also thought to increase your risk of suffering from a rheumatic disease.