Understanding Rheumatic Disorders

Rheumatic disorders can impact every aspect of daily life. The sooner a condition is diagnosed, the more effectively these conditions can be managed. Recognizing that there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, a holistic approach to addressing rheumatic disorders can help mitigate many of the symptoms. Expert physician care, appropriate medications and positive lifestyle changes can lead patients to experience significant improvements in their overall well-being.

As an umbrella term, rheumatic disease refers to conditions that affect the joints, muscles, ligaments and bones. These disorders can cause pain, inflammation, stiffness and affect the overall quality of life for those who suffer from them.

Types of Rheumatic Disorders

The most common rheumatic disorders include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gout
  • Childhood/juvenile arthritis
  • Lupus


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. People with OA experience the breakdown of their joints and changes in the underlying bone. This disorder can cause swelling, stiffness, pain, reduced function and disability. This degenerative joint disease can worsen over time and without treatment keep patients from doing daily tasks or work.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis condition triggered by the autoimmune system. It attacks the musculoskeletal system as well as the heart, lungs, skin, eyes and on rare occasions, the kidneys. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are important because permanent joint damage can occur within the first six months of the onset of the disease.


Gout is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis usually affecting one joint at a time, often starting with the big toe. Gout is caused by hyperuricemia, which occurs when there is too much uric acid in the body. When the uric acid is too high, uric acid crystals can build in joints, fluids and tissues. It is important to note that hyperuricemia does not always cause gout. Patients who experience gout symptoms should seek treatment with their physician.

Childhood Arthritis

When a child is diagnosed with arthritis, it is known as childhood arthritis or juvenile arthritis. This causes inflammation in the joints and other body systems. While the cause of childhood arthritis is unknown, a qualified physician can treat it. Children and adolescents with this condition are at risk of permanent physical damage to their joints, which could complicate everyday things like walking or dressing. 


Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. Symptoms of lupus can vary from patient to patient. While one person is suffering from muscle and joint pain, another could be dealing with kidney problems. Other symptoms include but are not limited to fever, rashes, chest pain, sun or light sensitivity, mouth sores and anemia. Proper diagnosis and treatment are key to managing lupus.

Causes and risk factors

The causes of rheumatic disorders vary and can include a combination of genetic, environmental and immunological factors. Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to these conditions, which would make them more susceptible. Environmental factors, such as infections or injuries, can trigger the onset of rheumatic disorders in genetically predisposed individuals. An overactive immune system also plays a significant role in many rheumatic conditions. Those issues can lead to inflammation, and inflammation can cause long-lasting or chronic pain as well as a lack of balance.  

Other risk factors for rheumatic disorders include:

  • Weight
  • Infection
  • Joint injuries
  • Occupation
  • Smoking

While not all factors contributing to rheumatic disease can be controlled, there are steps one can take to help mitigate the symptoms associated with it. Alexey Fomin, MD, PhD, of Hattiesburg Clinic The Arthritis Center – West said, “Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the best way to help manage rheumatic disease symptoms. This includes regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, getting adequate rest and managing stress.” He further stated the importance of following a physician’s instructions with regard to these conditions. “It’s crucial to follow prescribed medications and attend regular check-ups to monitor your condition. Individualized treatment plans, including physical therapy and joint protection techniques, can also play a significant role in improving your quality of life while living with rheumatic disease.”


While not all rheumatic disorders express all these characteristics, they will have at least the first four of the following:

  • Pain or discomfort – usually in one or more joints, including the spine
  • Pain with motion of the affected area
  • Soreness to the touch of the affected area
  • Stiffness of the affected areas – especially after a period of immobility
  • Symptomatic improvement after mild exercise – could worsen after vigorous exercise
  • Symptomatic worsening in response to climate factors
  • Symptomatic improvement in response to warming the affected area

Early detection of symptoms is crucial for prompt diagnosis and effective management.

Diagnosis & Treatment

While there are currently no cures for rheumatic disease, proper diagnosis and treatment can help improve the patient’s quality of life. Health care professionals use medical history, physical examinations and various diagnostic tests to diagnose patients. Blood tests, imaging studies like X-rays and MRIs and joint fluid analysis are commonly employed to confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the condition.

Various treatment options are available to manage symptoms, improve function and slow the progression of rheumatic diseases. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Additionally, prescription medications and infusion therapies can be used to help treat these disorders. Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and physical therapy can also help improve flexibility and mobility. Additionally, rest, stress management and a healthy diet contribute to overall well-being and may help alleviate symptoms.

At The Arthritis Center – West, board certified rheumatologists implement a comprehensive team approach to provide therapies, treat and manage rheumatic disorders. Rheumatic disorders can impact a patient’s daily life, so early diagnosis is crucial for effective management. While there may not be a single solution to treating these conditions, a holistic approach involving the expertise of our health care professionals, medication and lifestyle changes can significantly improve patient well-being. Contact us today for more information and schedule an appointment.