the difference between rheumatism and arthritis
is a traditional and non-specific term used in the East and
West to refer to a variety of conditions affecting the bones,
joints, skin, heart, kidneys, lungs. This term is rapidly
falling out of favour in the West today because modern medical
science has discovered that most of these conditions have
different aetiologies (causes) requiring very different treatments.
can say that it's a word mainly used in Chinese (& traditional)
societies; it's also used by a minority of Westerners into homeopathic
and alternative medicine. The only common characteristics among
these conditions are: 1) they cause long-term chronic pain, and
2) they are very difficult to treat.
is a broad term refers to inflammation of the joints, but doesn't
say anything about the cause. Includes conditions like osteoarthritis,
rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, infective arthritis,
gouty arthritis, etc.
I'd divide arthritis into 2 big groups:
This is primarily a 'wear and tear' condition affecting older people. Arises
from overuse (e.g. marathon runners), previous injuries (football players),
overweight, heredity. A lot of older Asian women get osteoarthritis of the
knees while the Americans and Europeans get it in the hips. The pain is more
than inflammatory. So you get pain in the later part of the day after a lot
of walking and climbing stairs.
it's mainly a mechanical problem, treatment with painkillers
is only a temporary solution. Long-term lifestyle changes are
more important - reduce weight, mobility and muscle-strengthening
exercises, reduce all kinds of weight-bearing activities (walking,
jumping, running, carrying heavy objects). In severe cases, surgery
may be warranted.
2) Inflammatory ('Rheumatic') Arthritis
This group comprises the various types of arthritis which are mainly inflammatory
, not mechanical, in nature. They usually result from an auto-immune condition,
which causes the body's immune system to go haywire and attack the joints and
other parts of the body. E.g. rheumatoid arthritis (RA), SLE (skin, kidneys,
joints, brain), psoriasis (skin, joints), ankylosing spondylitis (back, heart),
gout (joints, skin, kidneys), rheumatic heart disease/fever (joints, heart,
skin). All these conditions require different forms of treatment.
talk a bit about rheumatoid arthritis as it is the most common
condition in this group. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis
can occur at any age and is usually
hereditary (we now
have a test for the rheumatoid arthritis factor in the blood).
Pain is usually in the early morning, worse when it's cold, and
gets better with
activity and use. That means a rheumatoid arthritis sufferer
suffers from morning stiffness and pain, but gets better in the
afternoon when it's
warmer and when he has moved around a bit.
for rheumatoid arthritis, unlike osteoarthritis, is mainly through
drugs - painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs like steroids, cytotoxic
drugs like sulfasalazine
With the vast arsenals of drugs available today, rheumatoid arthritis
can be controlled very well and the sufferer can actually lead
a very active life.
Many osteoarthritis sufferers on the other hand may eventually
require surgery since we don't have very effective drugs for
osteoarthritis at this moment.
This article is contributed by Leong Y.H., M.D. Dr Leong
is a western trained medical doctor with a keen interest in
Oriental medical methods. You may republish this article provided
you give credit to the author and a link back to this website.