Rheumatism: symptoms, causes and therapies: Young people also suffer from this complex disease
Around 9 million people suffer from rheumatism in Germany alone. Depending on the definition, medical professionals summarize between 200 and 400 illnesses under this generic term, some of which appear similar but often very different. Those affected include not only the elderly, but people of all ages - even children. But what are the causes of painful joints? And how can rheumatic diseases be treated? Dr. Folker Franzen from orthonet-NRW, an association of established orthopedic surgeons in North Rhine-Westphalia, summarizes the most important information on the topic.
Thus rheumatic diseases appear in the most varied of forms and are in no way limited, as is often assumed, to the musculoskeletal system. They most often manifest themselves as chronic inflammatory wear on various joints such as the hip, knee or shoulder, as is the case with osteoarthritis. But rheumatic complaints do not only affect hard structures such as bones, joints and their protective layer, the cartilage. They also affect soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments and tendons or internal organs - such as fibromyalgia. This form, which is particularly difficult to diagnose, now makes up a large part of the rheumatological questions.
“In many cases, joint pain in the morning occurs with accompanying stiffness, which increases even after periods of rest. After an average of 45 minutes with targeted movements of the affected joints, complaints usually subside, ”reports Dr. French. This morning stiffness speaks for rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most serious rheumatic diseases. Here the inner skin of joints, tendon sheaths and bursa is inflamed. The causes have not yet been fully clarified. There is much to be said for an autoimmune reaction, i.e. the fight against the body's own tissue through a misdirected immune system. Genetic factors probably play a major role in this. Typical: Both joints, i.e. both hands, shoulders, knees or feet, hurt symmetrically. Swelling, tenderness, fatigue or mild fever are associated symptoms. However, especially at the beginning of the disease, many affected people misinterpret the first signs and suspect an overload or lying down incorrectly as a trigger. The orthopedist himself usually only makes a reliable diagnosis on the basis of a corresponding blood test.
To this day, this form of rheumatism is not curable. However, if it is recognized at an early stage, orthopedic surgeons are often able to stop or slow the progressive inflammation and destruction of the joints and to alleviate symptoms. Therefore, the main aim of the therapy is to take the pain away from the patient and maintain their mobility. Combination therapies consisting of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving drugs and drugs that suppress the body's immune system have become established. Many patients also benefit from physical treatment with heat, cold or stimulation current. A special diet that is as low in meat as possible often has a positive effect on the therapy. In the advanced stage, surgery can sometimes not be avoided to replace or stiffen the destroyed joints with a prosthesis and thus permanently resolve the symptoms. (pm)