All rheumatic illnesses can be divided into four large groups:
Natural ageing process can impact joints, causing deterioration, pain and inflammation at the ends of the bones. The main risk factors are excess weight, previous injury to joints, heredity and ageing.
The most typical form of arthritis is osteoarthritis.
The task of the human immune system is to provide protection for all systems of the body, for example, by destroying infectious agents. In the case of autoimmune diseases the body looses tolerance against its own tissues. The immune system then reacts to own tissues as foreign and tries to fight against them by developing antibodies. The most frequent causes of inflammation arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing arthritis.
There are two types of infectious arthritis:
- When the infection affects the joint itself;
- Reactive arthritis when the infection primarily affects other systems of the body but one or several joints get inflamed as a result. Reactive arthritis is caused by microorganisms, bacteria and fungi, for example, in the cases of tuberculosis, Lyme disease, dysentery, some sexually transmitted diseases, and hepatitis C.
Crystal arthropathy (arthritis caused by metabolic disorders)
Gout is one of the most typical illnesses of this group of arthritis conditions. Gout is different from the other forms of arthritis as it is caused by incorrect metabolism when uric acid accumulates in the blood and can deposit onto tissues and joints in the form of crystals. The presence of salt crystals irritates tissues and causes inflammation, resulting in sudden and sharp pain and swelling. This illness most frequently affects big toes, bases of fingers, and knee joints.
In many cases patients have several types of arthritis simultaneously, therefore treatment should be complex, consecutive, and justified
Most typical rheumatic illnesses
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, the causes of which are not yet completely clear. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, body develops antibodies against synovial membrane, destroying the structure of joints, causing irreversible damage to cartilage and joint, as well as eroding the bones.
Apart from the damage of joints, patients of rheumatoid arthritis can also have subcutaneous nodules, increased lymph nodes, heart damage (myocarditis, endocarditis). They can also have inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis), problems with endocrine system, eye damage (iritis or iridocyclitis), and damage to other parts of body.
In the case of reactive arthritis, the arthritis is a consequence of other illnesses. Reactive arthritis is caused by microorganisms, bacteria and fungi, for example, the infectious agents of tuberculosis, salmonella, Lyme disease, dysentery, some sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis C or inflammation process in the urogenital system or intestines. This disease usually affects knee joints, ankles, and feet. The inflammation process can also affect eyes and mouth, as well as cause skin rash. When the treatment of underlying disease is started in time, joints can be protected from the development of chronic arthritis.
Approximately 10% to 30% of psoriasis patients suffer from psoriatic arthritis that causes joint inflammation. In separate cases, psoriatic arthritis develops initially and psoriasis is observed only later. Psoriatic arthritis can affect any joint of the body, including fingers and spine.
Chronic, autoimmune inflammatory disease of joints caused by the inflammation of spine. Typical with inflammation and degenerative changes in the spine causing stiffness. Inflammation tends to progress with episodes of remission and flare-ups that result in explicit formation of ankylosis or fusing of the spine. The causes of this illness are not precisely known yet heredity appears to be of great importance.
Widespread chronic pain condition. Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain with as much as 20 definite points of pain. The causes of this pain are not completely understood. Fibromyalgia is 9 times more common in women than in men.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a chronic illness characterized by constant inflammation of joints. Typical signs of the inflammation in joints are pain, swelling, and limited movements. „Idiopathic” means that cause of the illness is not known and “juvenile” in this case means that the symptoms occur before 16 years of age.
As a result of the illness, the membrane that covers the joint and usually is very thin becomes much thicker and inflammation cells enter it, while the amount of the joint liquid increases. That causes inflammation, pain and limits the movements. A characteristic sign of the inflammation in joints is stiffness after longer rest. Therefore, it is especially typical in the mornings (morning stiffness). Depending on the symptoms, various types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis are recognized.
In the case of osteoarthritis, the joint capsule, surfaces of the bones of joints and ligaments of joints are involved in inflammation. As a result of the inflammation, wearing out of the cartilage layer of the joint takes place. This illness is the most frequently encountered chronic joint illness in the world affecting approximately 150 million of people. All types of arthritis cause inflammation in joints. Osteoarthritis affects many people during the process of ageing, yet young people can also be affected by this disease.
Gout is a metabolic illness related to the accumulation of uric acid salts in the body in the form of tiny crystals. They deposit mostly in joints, cartilages, kidney tissues, subcutaneous tissues, and elsewhere. This process can proceed without visible external signs. Symptoms in the form of pain in joints, sensitivity, redness and swelling can manifest suddenly. It can be caused by infection, injury of joint, surgery, excessive consumption of alcohol or consumption of foods rich in purine (brain, liver, sardines, anchovies, beans, etc.). Gout most frequently affects the base of the big toe, in fewer cases – heel, ankle joint, palm or elbow.
Polymyalgia rheumatica is a chronic, episodic inflammatory disorder of big arteries – one of the most frequent arthritis forms for people under 70 years of age. It manifests as pain in the hip and shoulder area, morning stiffness. Patients can have non-specific complaints about fever, weight loss, and fatigue. Usually there are pain in the muscles of both shoulders and hips. Sleep is disturbed due to pain.
Systemic red lupus
Systemic red lupus is a chronic immune system disorder when body’s immune system attacks own tissues and organs due to excessive amount of antibodies in blood (autoimmune disease), causing inflammation and damage in joints, muscles, kidneys, and other organs. Patients can have facial rash that resembles the wings of butterfly.
Scleroderma or systemic sclerosis is a general connective tissue illness characterized by thickening of the skin and fibrosis (fibrosity), as well as specific damage of internal organs, mainly heart, lungs, kidneys, and digestive tract.