Arthritis is a condition that causes joints to become inflamed. The word “arthritis” is often used to mean any condition that affects the joints. A larger category of diseases that includes arthritis is rheumatic diseases. These are conditions that cause inflammation and loss of function of some portion of the body. The most common areas affected by rheumatic disease are joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles. Gender-specific research has shown that women are more than twice as likely as men to develop rheumatic disease.
Some rheumatic diseases are known as connective tissue diseases because they often involve portions of the body that support or provide a framework for the body. Others are called autoimmune diseases because they are caused by a malfunction in the immune system.
Normally, the immune system protects the tissues of the body from infections and other things that cause damage. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system becomes the thing that causes the damage to otherwise healthy tissues.
Examples of rheumatic diseases include:
• Osteoarthritis – arthritis that damages the cartilage cushion on the ends of bones as well as the bones themselves.
• Rheumatoid arthritis – an inflammatory condition that causes damage to the lining of the joints. This is a progressive condition that eventually breaks down joints so they no longer function.
• Fibromyalgia – a chronic condition that causes pain in muscles and tendons all over the body.
• Bursitis – inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that provide cushioning in the joints.
• Tendonitis – inflammation of the tendons that connect muscles to bones.
Researchers are still studying rheumatic diseases to figure out exactly why they occur. Some people with arthritis have a mistake coded into their genes that makes them susceptible to this type of disease. Other cases seem to be the result of things in the environment that trigger the onset of the condition. One thing researchers know is that being a woman is the greatest risk factor for getting one of these diseases. (Medscape)