Rheumatology Department I Gleneagles Hospital

Rheumatology

Rheumatology is the sub-speciality of medicine that focuses primarily on joints, soft tissues, connective tissue disorders and autoimmune diseases such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, ankylosing spondylitis, degenerative joint diseases, and vasculitis. 

Rheumatologists are consultants who specialise in rheumatology.

Types of rheumatic diseases

1
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disease (your immune system attacks and destroys healthy cells in your joints by mistake).

Symptoms include:

  • Typically symmetrical swollen, stiff, and painful small joints (feet, hand, and wrist)
  • It may involve larger joints
  • Stiffness worsens in the morning 
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Fever

2
Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease is the commonest form of arthritis. It mainly occurs in the knee, hips, and fingers.  

Symptoms include:

  • Joint pain during movements that worsens at the end of the day
  • Crepitus 
  • Joint instability
  • Joint stiffness

3
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA)

PsA is an autoimmune disease associated with psoriasis (a chronic skin disease). It can affect small or large joints.

Symptoms include:

  • Swollen, painful joints
  • Joint stiffness
  • Pain 
  • Rashes
  • Changes in colour and texture of nails
  • Fatigue

4
Ankylosing spondylitis

This autoimmune disease affects the sacroiliac joints and spine. 

Symptoms include:

  • Gradual onset of lower back pain that worsens at night
  • Morning back stiffness
  • Pain radiating to the hips and buttocks 
  • Fatigue

5
Gout

Gout develops due to a build-up of uric acid crystals within the joint. It usually affects the big toe joint initially.

Symptoms include:

  • Intense pain in joints like the big toe, knees, ankles, wrists, and fingers
  • Red and swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness

6
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

SLE is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect multiple organs and can be fatal. Medical interventions and lifestyle modifications can help manage the disease.


Symptoms include:

  • Itchy and painful rashes across cheeks (butterfly rash)
  • Arthritis 
  • Photosensitivity (sensitivity to light)
  • Oral ulcers
  • Seizure 
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon - fingers and toes become white/pale or blue 

7
Systemic sclerosis

Systemic sclerosis is a connective tissue disorder that may affect your organs, blood circulation and skin

Symptoms include:

  • Oedematous fingers (swelling due to fluid accumulation) 
  • Shiny skin
  • Thickening of the skin on fingers
  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Telangiectasia- dilated blood vessels visible on the skin surface
  • Pain while swallowing (odynophagia)
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)

8
Sjogren’s syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that affects moisture-producing glands (salivary and lacrimal glands).

Symptoms include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Fatigue 
  • Polyarthritis 
  • Swelling between ears and jaw (swollen salivary glands)
  • Joint or muscle pain

9
Vasculitis

Vasculitis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the blood vessels. It can present as a minor problem to a more severe condition where it affects your entire body. 

Signs and symptoms of vasculitis depend on the type and severity of the disease. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue 
  • Body aches

Paediatric rheumatology

Paediatric rheumatologists treat rheumatic diseases in children.

Commonly observed rheumatic diseases in children are:

  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
  • Juvenile dermatomyositis or vasculitis
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Common symptoms include:

  • Prolonged fever with unknown cause
  • Muscle weakness
  • Deformity 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Limping

It is crucial to immediately seek medical consultation if your child complains of any of the symptoms above. 

Rheumatic diseases diagnosis

Diagnosis is made based on various investigations. Your doctor will first evaluate your medical history and symptoms before conducting a physical examination.

Tests that may be requested:

  • Imaging modalities: X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan
  • Joint aspiration 
  • Blood tests: Rheumatoid factor (RF), anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies (ACPA), antinuclear antibodies (ANA), antiphospholipid antibodies
  • Tissue biopsy 

Rheumatic diseases treatment options

The treatment options differ according to the types of rheumatic diseases. Treatments options include:

  • Medications  
  • Analgesics: Paracetamol, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Corticosteroids 
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Surgery

Rheumatologists at Gleneagles Hospitals

Speak to your doctor to learn more about rheumatic diseases. The caring and multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals are available for consultation and to provide the best care. Make a move towards improving your health and quality of life. 

Get in touch with us to book an appointment today. We assure you the best possible care tailored to your specific needs.

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