Diseases and Conditions
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Spinal stenosis (or narrowing) is a common condition that occurs when the small spinal canal, which contains the nerve roots and spinal cord, becomes compressed. This causes a “pinching” of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, which leads to pain, cramping, weakness or numbness. Depending on where the narrowing takes place, you may feel these symptoms in the lower back and legs, neck, shoulder or arms.
Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (commonly called antiphospholipid syndrome or APS)
Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (commonly called antiphospholipid syndrome or APS) is a recently identified autoimmune disease present mostly in young women. Those with APS make abnormal proteins called antiphospholipid autoantibodies in the blood. This causes blood to flow improperly and can lead to dangerous clotting in arteries and veins, problems for a developing fetus and pregnancy miscarriage. People with this disorder may otherwise be healthy, or they also may suffer from an underlying disease, most frequently systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly called SLE).
Lyme disease is an infection spread by the bite of certain types of ticks. If caught and treated early, the infection most often clears quickly. If not found until the later stages of infection, people with Lyme disease are more likely to still have symptoms (what you feel) after treatment. These include fatigue (feeling very tired), poor sleep, and muscle and joint pain.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a term that is well known. Unfortunately, given this widespread familiarity, people often attribute any discomfort or pain in the hand or wrist to carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is quite common, affecting 4-10 million Americans, and usually very treatable. However, there are many other conditions which can cause similar complaints. It is important to know the difference.
Calcium Pyrophosphate Deposition (CPPD)
Joint problems caused by crystals of a calcium salt called pyrophosphate may be one of the most misunderstood forms of arthritis. Joint problems seen with these crystals often are mistaken for gout and other conditions.
Osteoporosis is a common condition where bones become weak, affecting both men and women, mainly as they grow older. Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce your risk of osteoporosis. By doing so, you can avoid the often-disabling broken bones (fractures) that can result from this condition.
Taking a glucocorticoid medication (sometimes called corticosteroids) for treatment of inflammatory arthritis or other health problem may weaken your bones. This, in turn, can lead to osteoporosis. The good news is there are ways you can protect your bones while taking glucocorticoid medicine.
The prospect of a muscle disease worries some people because they are afraid of not being able to walk. Yet in many cases, treatment exists for myopathy (muscle disease). Proper diagnosis and treatment raise the chance of living life fully despite this illness.
HCV and Rheumatic Disease
The hepatitis C virus—often referred to as HCV—is the leading cause of liver failure and the top reason for needing a liver transplant. Besides hepatitis (liver inflammation), this virus can also cause arthritis (joint inflammation), muscle pain and weakness, and vascular (blood vessel) problems. Arthritis and other inflammatory problems are somewhat common in people with the virus (“HCV positive”). In fact, these problems can appear before you even know you have HCV.
Giant Cell Arteritis
In an older adult, a new, persisting headache—especially if together with flu-like symptoms, unexplained fatigue (tiredness) or fevers—can be due to an illness called giant cell arteritis or GCA. A disease of blood vessels, GCA can occur together with polymyalgia rheumatica (also called PMR).
Metabolic myopathies are genetic diseases, usually inherited, that affect the body’s muscles. [Metabolism refers to chemical reactions that provide energy and nutrients, or substances necessary for health and growth.] Some people with a metabolic myopathy (muscle disease) develop weakness; others tire easily with exercise or physical activity, suffer muscle pain after physical effort, and/or experience severely swollen and tender muscles. These symptoms occur when muscle cells don’t get enough energy. Without enough energy, the muscle lacks enough fuel to work properly.
The bones and bone marrow of the human body are made up of living cells that need a steady blood supply to stay healthy. If blood flow to these cells greatly decreases, the cells may die, causing the bone to collapse. This process is called osteonecrosis. Osteonecrosis can lead to pain, arthritis and limited use of affected joints. Some people may even need joint replacement surgery.
Osteonecrosis of the Jaw
Osteonecrosis of the jaw, commonly called ONJ, occurs when the jaw bone is exposed and begins to starve from a lack of blood. As the name indicates (osteo meaning bone and necrosis meaning death), the bone begins to weaken and die, which usually, but not always, causes pain. ONJ is associated with cancer treatments (including radiation), infection, steroid use, or potent antiresorptive therapies that help prevent the loss of bone mass. Examples of potent antiresorptive therapies include bisphosphonates such as alendronate (Fosamax); risedronate (Actonel and Atelvia); ibandronate (Boniva); and denosumab (Prolia). While ONJ is associated with these conditions, it also can occur without any identifiable risk factors.
Gout is sometimes referred to as the “disease of kings.” This is because people long have incorrectly linked it to the kind of overindulgence in food and wine only the rich and powerful could afford. In fact, gout can affect anyone, and its risk factors vary.
Fibromyalgia is a common health problem that causes widespread pain and tenderness (sensitive to touch). The pain and tenderness tend to come and go, and move about the body. Most often, people with this chronic (long- term) illness are fatigued (very tired) and have sleep problems. It can be hard to diagnose fibromyalgia.
Reactive arthritis is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis that develops in reaction to an infection by bacteria. In the past, it went by the name “Reiter’s syndrome.” Now it belongs to the family of arthritis called “spondylarthritis.”
Rheumatoid Arthritis (commonly called RA)
People have long feared rheumatoid arthritis (commonly called RA) as one of the most disabling types of arthritis. The good news is that the outlook has greatly improved for many people with newly diagnosed (detected) RA.
Raynaud’s phenomenon. This term refers to color changes (blue, white and red) that occur in fingers and, sometimes, toes. Raynaud’s often occurs after exposure to cold temperatures. It occurs when the blood flow to the hands, fingers or toes is temporarily reduced. Raynaud’s can lead to finger swelling, color changes, numbness, pain, skin ulcers and gangrene on the fingers and toes. People with have Raynaud’s may have other diseases, and some people with Raynaud’s do not have any other disease.
Tendinitis or bursitis often involves the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle. The pain it causes may be quite severe and often occurs suddenly. As in arthritis, the pain is worse during movement. Unlike arthritis, the pain is often in parts of the body far from a joint.
Vasculitis refers to inflammation of the blood vessels. There are many types of vasculitis. Most types of vasculitis are rare, and the causes are generally not known. Vasculitis can affect persons of both sexes and a broad range of ages.
Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that most often affects middle-age to elderly people. It is commonly referred to as OA or as “wear and tear” of the joints, but we now know that OA is a disease of the entire joint, involving the cartilage, joint lining, ligaments, and bone. Although it is more common in older people, it is not really accurate to say that the joints are just “wearing out.”
In the early 1900s, Swedish physician Henrik Sjögren (SHOW-gren) first described a group of women whose chronic arthritis was accompanied by dry eyes and dry mouth. Today, rheumatologists know more about the syndrome that is named for Sjögren and—most significantly for patients—can offer advice about how to live with it.
Paget’s disease of bone is an uncommon, chronic bone condition that occurs in only about 1% of people in the United States and slightly more often in men than in women (3 to 2). Individuals with Paget’s disease experience rapid isolated bone repair, which causes a variety of symptoms from softer bones to enlarged bone growth, typically involving one or more bones of the pelvis, low back (spine), hips, thighs, head (skull) and arms. Medical therapies have proven effective in reducing the frequency of pain, fractures and arthritis that may be caused by this condition.
Polymyalgia rheumatica (sometimes referred to as PMR) is a common cause of widespread aching and stiffness in older adults. Because PMR does not often cause swollen joints, it may be hard to recognize. PMR may occur with another health problem, giant cell arteritis.
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritic inflammation that occurs in about 15 percent of patients who have a skin rash called psoriasis. This particular arthritis can affect any joint in the body, and symptoms vary from person to person. Research has shown that persistent inflammation from psoriatic arthritis can lead to joint damage. Fortunately, available treatments are effective for most people.
HIV and Rheumatic Disease
HIV infection and its most serious complication acquired immunodeficiency syndrome — more often referred to as AIDS — were first recognized over 30 years ago. Since then, there has been great progress in understanding, treating and preventing AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Despite these advances, more than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 5 are unaware of their underlying infection.
Takayasu’s arteritis, also called TAK, is a rare disease involving inflammation in the walls of the largest arteries in the body: the aorta and its main branches. The disease results from an attack by the body’s own immune system, causing inflammation in the walls of arteries. The inflammation leads to narrowing of the arteries, and this can reduce blood flow to many parts of the body.
Scleroderma is a disease affecting the skin and other organs of the body. Scleroderma is one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases, meaning that the body’s immune system is acting abnormally. The main finding in scleroderma is thickening and tightening of the skin, and inflammation and scarring of many body parts leading to problems in the lungs, kidneys, heart, intestinal system and other areas. There is still no cure for scleroderma but effective treatments for some forms of the disease are available.
Systemic lupus erythematosus, referred to as SLE or lupus, is sometimes called the “great imitator.” Why? Because of its wide range of symptoms, people often confuse lupus with other health problems.
Spondyloarthritis (or spondyloarthropathy)
Spondyloarthritis (or spondyloarthropathy) is the name for a family of inflammatory rheumatic diseases that cause arthritis. The most common is ankylosing spondylitis, which affects mainly the spine.
Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (Wegener's)
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s) is a rare blood vessel disease. It can cause symptoms in the sinuses, lungs and kidneys as well as other organs. This is a complex and potentially serious disease. However, with prompt diagnosis, granulomatosis with polyangiitis—also called GPA—can be treated effectively.