Arthritis and Rheumatology

Ajay K. Mathur, M.D.If you have experienced joint or back pain, you are not alone. About 30 percent of adults report some form of joint pain most commonly in the knees or back; 52 million adults self-report an arthritis diagnosis that is confirmed by a physician and 22 million people have activity limitation related to arthritis.

Arthritis is not a single disease; it is an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. People of all ages, sexes and races can and do have arthritis; it is the leading cause of disability in America. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis. It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people age.

Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go. They can be mild, moderate or severe. They may stay about the same for years but may progress or get worse over time. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints, but often the damage can only be seen on an X-ray. Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin as well as the joints.

As you can imagine, any number of factors such as trauma, infections, certain medications, psychological and physical stresses as well as immune system disruption of any kind can cause various arthritis and related rheumatologic diseases. If there is concern of an underlying rheumatic condition, your PCP will refer you to a rheumatologist.