(By Dr Nikhil Gupta, Consultant - Rheumatology, Saroj super Speciality Hospital, Rohini)
We all have general musculoskeletal pains from time to time that last for just a few days. But, when pain in your joints, muscles, neck, back and bones is severe and persistent for more than a few days, you should see your doctor. Rheumatic diseases are difficult to identify in their early stages and you can have everyday symptoms that actually are related to much more complex conditions. Rheumatologists are your experts in this area and are trained to evaluate all of your symptoms to diagnose and treat your condition. They know it is imperative to find the correct diagnosis as rapidly as possible to begin appropriate treatment because many of these disorders respond best to treatment in the early stages of disease. If the treatment is delayed, the arthritis can spread to involve other vital organs as heart, brain, kidney, lung, liver, nerves, skin, eyes etc.
Many rheumatic diseases change or evolve, so you may have to make more than one office visit before your rheumatologist reaches a definitive diagnosis. The diagnostic process usually includes a complete medical history, physical examination and, if indicated, blood tests and x-rays.
There are more than 100 types of rheumatologic diseases, including musculoskeletal pain disorders; back and neck pain, tendinitis, bursitis, nerve impingements (sciatica, cervical radiculopathy, carpal tunnel syndrome); osteoarthritis; autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, spondyloarthro- pathies, polymyalgia rheumatic, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, antiphospholipid syndrome, scleroderma; and vasculitis; osteoporosis and osteopenia; gout; fibromyalgia and Lyme arthritis.
Treatments for arthritis can stop joint pain and swelling. Treatment also prevents joint damage and thus prevents deformities and surgeries. Early treatment will give better long term results.
Regular low-impact exercises, such as walking, and exercises can increase muscle strength. This will improve your overall health and lower pressure on your joints.
Studies show that people who receive early treatment for arthritis feel better sooner and more often, and are more likely to lead an active life. They also are less likely to have the type of joint damage that leads to joint replacement.
It is important to get the help of a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is a doctor who treats arthritis and autoimmune disease. It is important to get the correct diagnosis without unnecessary testing. A rheumatologist will help find a treatment plan that is best for your disease.