Care for Diseases of the Joints, Soft Tissue and Connective Tissues
If you suffer from pain and discomfort in your joints, you may need medical expertise and care to properly diagnose, treat and help you medically manage your condition. Crozer Health’s fellowship-trained rheumatologists provide targeted, personal and compassionate care for rheumatic diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, lupus and gout.
These diseases are progressive and if not treated properly, can cause a lifetime of discomfort and serious damage. To help minimize damage to your joints and connective tissue, you need the special care that a qualified rheumatologist can give.
Who Gets Rheumatic Diseases?
Arthritis and rheumatic diseases can affect anyone, at any age, or of any race. However, certain diseases are more common in certain populations, including the following:
- Osteoarthritis is more common among the elderly.
- Seventy percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis are women.
- Fibromyalgia affects 2 percent of the U.S. population.
- Gout is more common in men.
- Scleroderma is more common in women.
- Lupus affects women about eight to 10 times as often as men.
- Ankylosing spondylitis is more common in men.
Diagnosing Rheumatic Diseases
Rheumatologists diagnose rheumatic diseases using a combination of physical examinations, medical and family medical history, laboratory tests and medical imaging studies. These may include:
- Shober’s Test to test the flexibility of the lower back
- Examination of the joints
- Laboratory tests such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate and Rheumatoid factor
- Chemical analysis of fluid from the affected joints
- Urine and uric acid tests
- Imaging tests of the affected areas using x-ray, ultrasound, MRI and arthroscopy, a procedure that uses a thin tube containing a light and camera (arthroscope) to look inside the joint. The arthroscope is inserted into the joint through a small incision and the image projected on a screen for the physician to view and analyze the tissue and joint for any damage.
Treating Rheumatic Diseases
If you are diagnosed with a rheumatic disease, your physician will recommend a treatment plan that combines short- and long-term treatment based on the disease type, your medical history and the progression of the disease.
Short-term treatments ease symptoms and may include any of the following:
- Medications: Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Temperature: Hot and cold compresses
- Assistive devices
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device that delivers short, electrical pulses to the nerve endings beneath the skin of the affected joints.
Long-term treatments of arthritis and rheumatic diseases aim to reduce symptoms, but also lessen or prevent joint and tissue damage. They may include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications: Help to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic medications: Prescription medications that may affect the course of the disease by slowing down its progress or by correcting immune deficiencies of the patient.
- Corticosteroids: Medications that contain hormones used to treat rheumatic diseases. An example is prednisone, which can be taken orally or by injection.
- Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Hyaluronic Acid Therapy: This joint fluid or lubricant breaks down in people with arthritis. Doctors will inject it into the knees of people with arthritis to ease symptoms.
- Surgery: Options include arthroscopic surgery, fusion or joint replacement.
- Weight Reduction: Losing even a few pounds can make a difference in weight-bearing joints.
- Exercise: Swimming or other low-impact exercises can help reduce pain and other symptoms.