American College of Rheumatology
THERE ARE MORE THAN 100 REASONS TO SEE A RHEUMATOLOGIST
May is National Arthritis Awareness Month
Atlanta – While many people believe that arthritis is a stand-alone disease, it is actually a term used to describe over 100 different rheumatic diseases.
Over 88 million Americans, including an estimated 300,000 children, suffer from some form of arthritis or rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease, and the American College of Rheumatology is committed to advancing the treatment of—and research for—those who suffer from these diseases and conditions.
Although there are more than 100 rheumatic diseases, the two diseases most commonly associated with the term arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis—caused by cartilage breakdown in one or more joints in the fingers, hips, knees, feet, and the spine in the neck and lower back—is the most common form of arthritis and this is typically what people think of when they hear the term. Twenty-seven million Americans age 25 and over are living with osteoarthritis today, and 70 percent of people over the age of 70 have X-ray evidence of the disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling and limitations in the motion and function of multiple joints. RA is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, affecting more than 1.3 million Americans. Of these, about 75 percent are women. In fact, one to three percent of women may develop rheumatoid arthritis is their lifetime. The disease most often begins between the fourth and sixth decades of life. However, RA can develop at any age.
Because RA affects many people, yet research funding dedicated to improving treatment and ultimately finding a cure for this disease is significantly low compared to other autoimmune diseases, the ACR Research and Education Foundation launched Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis – a mulit-million dollar fundraising campaign that will accelerate the innovative research necessary to find a cure for the disease.
Other rheumatic diseases that fall under the umbrella term of arthritis include psoriasis, lupus, Lyme disease, gout, osteoporosis, scleroderma, and juvenile arthritis – all of which should be treated by a rheumatologist.
While most of us will experience some aches and pains in our lifetime, pain in the joints, muscles or bones that is severe or persists for more than a few days could be a rheumatic disease and may need the attention of your physician – who may refer you to a rheumatologist.
“When someone has pain in or near a joint, the term ‘arthritis’ can be as elusive as saying ‘rash’ or ‘abdominal trouble’ when talking about other kinds of medical conditions,” explains Dennis Boulware, MD, a practicing rheumatologist in Honolulu, Hawaii and chairperson of the ACR’s Communication and Marketing Committee. “The key to effective treatment and improvement is an accurate and precise diagnosis allowing specific treatment to be prescribed. Rheumatologists are professionally trained to make that specific diagnosis and offer customized treatment for each specific diagnosis,” explains Dr. Boulware.
Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easily identified in the early stages. Rheumatologists are specially trained to do the detective work necessary to discover the cause of swelling and pain. It’s important to determine a correct diagnosis early so that appropriate treatment can begin early. Some musculoskeletal disorders respond best to treatment in the early stages of the disease.
Because some rheumatic diseases are complex, one visit to a rheumatologist may not be enough to determine a diagnosis and course of treatment. These diseases often change or evolve over time. Rheumatologists work closely with patients to identify the problem and design an individualized treatment program.
If you or someone you love suffers from a rheumatic disease, it is important to get the facts and see a rheumatologist. The ACR offers information on several different rheumatic diseases and help in locating a rheumatologist in your area. Visit www.rheumatology.org for more information about National Arthritis Awareness Month.
The ACR is an organization of and for physicians, health professionals, and scientists that advances rheumatology through programs of education, research, advocacy and practice support that foster excellence in the care of people with or at risk for arthritis and rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. For more information about the ACR, see www.rheumatology.org.
The ACR Research and Education Foundation was established in 1985 as a 501(c)(3) with a mission to improve patients' lives through support of research and training that advances the prevention, treatment and cure of rheumatic diseases. Since its founding, the REF has promoted and advanced the field of rheumatology by funding research, training and education opportunities for clinicians, students, health professionals, researchers and academic institutions. On average, 90 cents of every dollar donated to the REF is used to fund its extensive award and grant program. For more information about the REF, visit www.rheumatology.org/REF, and for information on Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis, visit www.WithinOurReach.info.