Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases?

Different types of arthritis and rheumatic diseases have different signs and symptoms. In general, people who have arthritis feel pain and stiffness in the joints. Early diagnosis and treatment help decrease further joint damage and help control symptoms of arthritis and many other rheumatic diseases.

What Causes Rheumatic Diseases?

For most rheumatic diseases, the short answer is we still don’t know.  However, we have certainly made advances and have clues.  For example, it has become clear that most rheumatic diseases are caused by a combination of individual genetic and environmental factors (and likely not just one gene and probably a number of environmental factors). Thus, you may be born with a susceptibility to a disease, but it may take something in your environment to express the disease. Some of these factors have been identified. For example, in osteoarthritis, excessive stress on a joint from repeated injury may lead to arthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and lupus, often there is a variation in specific gene(s) that codes for a unique response of your immune system to certain environmental triggers. In some cases, bacteria or viruses may trigger disease in genetically susceptible people. For example, Lyme Disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted by tick bites. Other types of arthritis can result from an imbalance in metabolism, as exemplified by excess uric acid leading to gout.

Who Is Affected by Rheumatic Diseases?

An estimated 46 million people in the United States have arthritis or other rheumatic conditions. By the year 2020, this number is expected to reach 60 million. Rheumatic -diseases are a more frequent cause of activity limitation than heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.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. After menopause, the incidence of gout for women begins to rise.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus is more common in women than in men, and it occurs more often in African Americans and Hispanics than in Caucasians.

How do I know if I have Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a silent process of age-related bone loss, more common in women following menopause and men as they age.  The consequence of this bone loss is a weakening of the skeleton leading to a high susceptibility to fractures, usually following a fall.  Osteoporosis can be detected early, ideally before the fracture, by obtaining a simple and painless test to measure bone density- referred to as a DXA or bone mineral density test. This allows us to start therapy to strengthen your bones and prevent the dreaded fractures. The DXA also allows us to monitor therapy.