Rheumatology

Rheumatology

Rheumatology is the branch of medicine related to the study of rheumatic diseases, which are painful conditions characterized by inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joints or muscles.

Because of aging, injuries and traumas, overweight, familiarity, overuse on one side and lack of physical activity on the other, joints and related structures such as bones, ligaments and cartilage may present a series of degenerative disorders which negatively affect daily activities.

Among these conditions the most frequent one is osteoarthritis (OA), which is currently the leading cause of disability in the USA, with and annual cost is approximately $ 5700 per year per person suffering from this condition.
Globally, OA causes moderate to severe disability in 43 million people.
This is a condition in which the protective cartilage wears away and the exposed bones rub against each other, resulting in a general deterioration of the joint, pain and stiffness after periods of inactivity or excessive use. Humid and cold weather may increase the pain.
OA causes a crackling noise called ‘crepitus’ when the affected joint is moved or touched and patients may experience muscle spasm and contractions in the tendons.
Hands , knees, hips and spine are the most commonly affected joints.

Interestingly, OA is referred as the most common ailment of prehistoric people, it has also been noted in skeletal remains of Native Americans found in what is now Kansas and Otzi, a mummy of 3000BC found along the border of modern Austria and Italy, also shows evident signs of this disease.

But let’s look at the present: the bad news is that being a degenerative disease, OA gradually worsens and no cure exists, however the good one is that some effective treatments which can reduce pain, slow down the progression of the disease, preventing further degeneration and replacing protective structures of the joints such as synovial fluid, are available.

Chondroitin sulfate (CS) is an important structural component of cartilage and provides much resistance to compression. That is the reason why drugs containing highly purified, pharmaceutical grade CS have proved to be effective in slowing down the degenerative process in the joints.
On the other hand Hyaluronic Acid (HA), which was first isolated from the vitreous humour, has the capability to increase the viscosity of the synovial fluid. Injections of HA are effectively used in joints suffering from OA (knee, small joints such as hand) and also in some other pathological conditions of tendons.

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