Rheumatism is a type of autoimmune disease that affects the joints and the connective tissues. This condition occurs when the joints and connective tissues become inflamed. As the tissues become inflamed, a patient will experience severe, shooting pain, swollen joints, and redness.
Generally, autoimmune diseases are conditions that occur when the body’s tissues are mistakenly attacked by its own immune system. Rheumatism occurs when antibodies start attacking the tissues that surround the joints. Rheumatism does not just affect the joints and connective tissues. There are cases wherein the inflammation caused injuries to nearby organs.
Unfortunately, rheumatism has no known cure. Treatments and medication are designed only to reduce pain and inflammation, not eliminate the disease completely.
Treatment for Rheumatism
Rheumatic pain is often treated with a cocktail of painkillers. However, do note that some painkillers can cause serious side effects. Our advice is to avoid self-medication and take drugs prescribed by your doctor.
Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs
NSAIDs help ease the pain, reduce inflammation, and prevent swollen tissues. Some of the most common over the counter NSAIDs are ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. But NSAIDs prescribed by your doctor are more potent than OTC meds. Side effects of long-term NSAIDs use include stomach upset, ringing in the ears, heart disease and kidney damage.
Steroid medications slow down the damage to the joint and reduce inflammation and tenderness of the affected area. The most common corticosteroid med is prednisone. Corticosteroid meds are typically prescribed by doctors to ease acute symptoms with the goal of gradually weaning the patient off painkillers.
Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic drugs or DMARDs
DMARDs are medications that slow down the progression of the disease. These drugs are also designed to protect the joints and connective tissues from irreversible damage caused by an overactive immune system. The most common DMARDs are methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, and sulfasalazine. Side effects of long-term use of DMARDs include bone marrow suppression, severe lung infections, and liver damage.
Biologic Response Modifiers
Biologic response modifiers are a new generation of DMARDs, which include abatacept, adalimumab, anakinra, certolizumab, etanercept, golimumab, infliximab, rituximab (Rituxan) and tocilizumab. These drugs are designed to zero in on the immune system to stop inflammation that causes tissue and joint damage. Biologic response modifiers work better when paired with non-biologic DMARD.
A physical therapist will work with the patient to ease rheumatic pains. The therapy plan will depend on the severity of the disease. Usually, the therapy will include light exercises and stretching to boost flexibility. The therapist could also teach the patient different ways of completing daily tasks to reduce pain.
If the body no longer responds to medication or physical therapy, then surgery may serve as the last resort to save the joints from damage. Surgery may boost a patient’s ability to use the joint, ease pain and correct deformities. There are different types of surgery to treat rheumatism: total joint replacement, tendon repair, and joint fusion. The kind of surgery you will go through will depend on the progression of the disease and the extent of damage to the tissues and joints.