What Are Rheumatic Diseases and What Is Arthritis?
There are more than 100 rheumatic diseases. These diseases may cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints and other supporting structures of the body such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Some rheumatic diseases can also affect other parts of the body, including various internal organs.
Many people use the word arthritis to refer to all rheumatic diseases. However, the word literally means joint inflammation; that is, swelling, redness, heat, and pain caused by tissue injury or disease in the joint. The many different kinds of arthritis comprise just a portion of the rheumatic diseases. Some rheumatic diseases are described as connective tissue diseases because they affect the body’s connective tissue the supporting framework of the body and its internal organs. Others are known as autoimmune diseases because they are caused by a problem in which the immune system harms the body’s own healthy tissues.
Who Is Affected by Arthritis and Rheumatic Conditions?
An estimated 40 million people in the United States have arthritis or other rheumatic conditions. By the year 2020, this number is expected to reach 59 million. Rheumatic diseases are the leading cause of disability among adults age 65 and older.
Rheumatic diseases affect people of all races and ages. Some rheumatic conditions are more common among certain populations. For example:
- Rheumatoid arthritis occurs two to three times more often in women than in men.
- Scleroderma is more common in women than in men.
- Nine out of 10 people who have lupus are women.
- Nine out of 10 people who have fibromyalgia are women.
- Gout is more common in men than in women.
- Lupus is three times more common in African-American women than in Caucasian women.
- Ankylosing spondylitis is more common in men than in women.
Source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases