About 40% of the world population suffers from the first symptoms of rheumatism with a disease of this type already underway. This percentage varies depending on the geographical area. In Spain, the prevalence is 1 in 4 people over the age of 20.
It should be noted that the word rheumatism is not a disease in itself, but is a concept that encompasses a group of ailments located in the musculoskeletal system. It also includes connective tissue and metabolic bone diseases.
What is rheumatism?
As we have said, there is no disease called rheumatism, but it is a term that encompasses a series of symptoms referring to pain in the musculoskeletal system. We also have here lupus and scleroderma and metabolic bone like osteoporosis and osteomalacia.
Rheumatological diseases are very frequent in the population but tend to affect women and the elderly more. However, rheumatism can be found at any age, causing great disability.
Causes of rheumatism
Currently, the specific cause of rheumatologic diseases is unknown. However, its origins have been established as multifactorial and complex. The fact that a disease is multifactorial means that it does not have a single etiology.
Rheumatism happens because there are external factors that affect a genetically susceptible individual. In other words, a person with altered genes is only at risk for the disease, but may never develop it.
However, if the right environmental factors are given, activations and imbalances in gene expression can occur, producing the first symptoms of rheumatism. In turn, the immune system has an important role in development.
A curiosity about external factors
Rheumatism has more incidence in cold and humid countries that are in latitudes near the poles. However, in hot countries and with latitudes close to the center, there is usually less prevalence. This phenomenon is not well understood, but it may be related to the influence of environmental factors.
For example, in different studies, it was observed that people migrated from countries where rheumatism was low when settling in cold countries and higher latitudes after several years had almost the same risk of suffering diseases of this type. Even descendants of these migrated people who continued to live in the host country had the same risk.
Early symptoms of rheumatism
The first symptoms of rheumatism can coincide with different diseases, although we are in a wide field of possibilities. We are going to name you and tell you about some that are usually the most relevant.
The most repeated and important symptom is pain. The location will depend on the type of rheumatic disease suffered. It is most often located in and around the joints.
There is no specific form of pain, but it depends on each person and their particular sensitivity. It can be a temporary pain or when certain movements are made, such as the following:
- Pain in the hands when sewing: classic of rheumatoid arthritis. In this disease, there is significant involvement of the joints of the fingers of the hand, causing stiffness.
- Pain in the knees when walking
- Pain in the back when bending over
Pain is the main symptom, but it is not the only condition that occurs. Along with it, patients may have stiffness of the joints or the affected area.
It usually appears in the morning and remits when a certain time of the day has passed. The weather plays a key role in the development of the sign, accelerating in winter and persisting longer hours in the cold.
Swelling or swelling
The joints, so that they can perform the movements correctly, are made up of a joint cavity filled with synovial fluid. This liquid is what nourishes the joint and prevents friction between the bones it joins.
Rheumatism causes inflammation in this synovial fluid, producing substances that destroy the joint from within, such as toxins. For this reason, rheumatic patients may present swelling or swelling in the area of the joints or surrounding areas.
Are the first symptoms of rheumatism only joint?
The first symptoms of rheumatism do not always appear confined to the joints. There may be initial manifestations in other organs such as the skin, eyes, mouth, digestive system, lung, and kidney. It even affects the heart, since rheumatic patients tend to have a higher incidence of valve disease.
As in rheumatic diseases, connective tissue pathologies are also included, such as lupus or scleroderma. In these cases, the whole body is affected. It can start with fever or nonspecific tiredness.
It is important to keep in mind family history and the study of blood markers. But in the end, the diagnosis will be based on the clinic and the physical evidence over any other complementary method.
What to remember about the first symptoms of rheumatism?
As discussed, the first symptoms of rheumatism are not very specific and can be confused with other diseases. It can also happen that we do not give importance to age, aging, or lack of physical fitness.
However, they are degenerative and very disabling disorders that need adequate treatment. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor to study blood markers and trace the family presence of similar disorders.