Rheumatism: one in four people have it

Rheumatism is one of the commonest diseases in the world. It is estimated that around twenty-five percent of the population suffer from some form of rheumatism. The effects are just as pervasive: According to experts, approximately 30 percent of all health problems can be attributed to rheumatic disease.

Contrary to popular belief, rheumatism is not a sign of old age, but a very serious disease that can affect all age groups. Women are three times more likely to be affected than men.

What is rheumatism?

Rheumatism is a catch-all term that covers inflammations and symptoms of wear and tear in the bones, muscles and joints of the movement apparatus. There are over 150 different diseases, which can be divided into two main groups: inflammatory joint changes (arthritis) and wear and tear of the joints (arthrosis)

What are the causes of rheumatism?

We still do not know exactly what causes the disease. Genetic influences are probably a factor. This is indicated by the fact that the risk of disease is higher if there is rheumatism in the family. Triggers may include environmental factors, such as infections, allergies, or accidents. Many years of strain placed on the joints by overweight or hard physical work can also play a part.

What is the difference between arthritis and arthrosis?

Rheumatoid arthritis, formerly called chronic polyarthritis, is an inflammatory disease mainly affecting the joints. Typical of the disease is a symmetric inflammation in several joints, above all in the little fingers and toes. The attack on the joints can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, overheating and impaired movement. Characteristically, arthritis is often accompanied by general complaints such as tiredness, exhaustion, lack of energy and loss of appetite, and sometimes even by fever. The disease usually progresses over many years, often in phases. It is a dangerous illness, because the inflammation can lead to the creeping destruction of the joints. Arthrosis on the other hand, is one of the so-called "degenerative" diseases. Changes due to wear and tear in the cartilage and bones are partly responsible. Unlike arthritis, arthrosis is not always painful.

What can be done for rheumatic complaints?

Unfortunately no drug has yet been found that can cure rheumatism. There are a number of different treatments that can help to alleviate the complaint and delay the progression of the disease. For many rheumatic diseases, exercise is the be-all and end-all. Exercise stimulates the metabolism in the joints, thereby promoting mobility. Relief can also be obtained from so-called "anti-rheumatic" drugs. These work mainly by inhibiting the inflammation and reducing the pain and thus combat the symptoms, but not the causes of the disease. A healthy lifestyle with a well balanced diet, refraining from over-indulgence and controlling your weight can also have a positive effect on rheumatic symptoms.

Source: alf