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Extremely frequent, rheumatism can be very disabling and always lead to a sharp decrease in the quality of life in those affected. Here is a review of the main known elements and some treatment options.
The term “rheumatism” brings together very different diseases, acute or chronic, localized mostly at the level of the joints and soft parts that surround them, characterized by pain and congestion (flow of liquid into the tissues). It is therefore more pertinent to speak of rheumatic pathologies. There are three main groups: inflammatory, extra-articular and degenerative rheumatism. The latter category is the most frequent (arthrosis).
This group includes rheumatoid polyarthritis, often called simply arthritis, ankylosing spondyloarthritis and collagenosis. Rheumatoid polyarthritis is characterized by inflammatory access to the hands, in particular the fingers, whose joints deform, sometimes severely limiting mobility. There is a progressive destruction of cartilages and joints. This disease is caused by autoimmune reactions, whose specialists are still unable to explain the origin; however, hereditary factors seem to come into play.
As for ankylosing spondyloarthritis, it is a relatively rare disease, which affects young men substantially; it has a slow evolution and mainly affects the joints of the spine. Some types of arthritis can also result from viral or bacterial infections.
Finally, collagenoses are considered autoimmune diseases, characterized by a widespread compromise of collagen, a connective tissue protein, which undergoes degeneration.
As the name indicates, these rheumatisms do not affect the joints. These are, for example, tendinitis and fibromyalgia. The latter is a chronic pathology characterized by generalized and widespread pain, accompanied by profound fatigue.
Degenerative rheumatism (arthrosis)
It is this rheumatism that is wrongly believed to be linked to age. If it is true that the risk of osteoarthritis increases over the years, it is equally true that this disease also affects young people. Osteoarthritis mainly affects the joints of the knee, hip, fingers and spine. This pathology is attributable to a progressive alteration of the cartilage that covers the bone ends. The cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber bearing allowing the joints to move freely, in osteoarthritis it deteriorates becoming wrinkled on the surface. Once it has deteriorated, the cartilage is unable to regenerate itself and to cushion the impacts deriving from movements.
Over time, the bone ends become less smooth. Joint deformations are found and bones can take inappropriate positions. In this situation, the tendons and muscles are subjected to unusual stresses that cause overload, pain, stiffness and less mobility. In addition, inflammations with an accessory trend can occur (i.e. they have acute phases): they are caused by the presence of fragments of cartilage in the joint cavity with excessive production of fluid and swelling of the joint.
Despite being constantly in the regenerative phase, cartilage is not a vascularized tissue (it does not contain blood vessels). There is a balance between its protein components (chondroitin and proteoglycans) and water. Cartilage captures the water and nutrients it needs during joint movements. By taking care of the joints and making them function correctly (and constantly), it is possible within certain limits to prevent wear and tear of the cartilage and ensure its regeneration.
To facilitate this process, however, the necessary nutrients must be supplied to the cartilage tissue. Glucosaminoglycans, present in the extract of “green-lipped” mussels (Perna canaliculus), are the natural components of the connective tissue, tendons and articular cartilages. This extract also contains numerous amino acids, mineral salts and omega-3 fatty acids. According to some recent clinical studies, omega-3 polyunsaturated acids and antioxidants such as vitamin E can reduce inflammatory processes.
The following food supplements, available in pharmacies or drugstores, can be recommended for people suffering from rheumatic diseases (arthritis, arthrosis or other joint diseases): vitamin E (in large doses), fish oil capsules (the alternative is to consume sea fish in large quantities four times a week), capsules or tablets containing “green-lipped” mussel extract. To be effective, these products must be taken regularly for at least a few weeks.
In acute inflammatory phases, ointments and creams based on anti-inflammatory substances are indicated, as well as the application of gels and ice bags to soothe overheating and pain. In the absence of inflammation (inflammation), people suffering from osteoarthritis need a warming cream to improve joint mobility. For other therapies available on prescription (cortisone injections, oral anti-inflammatories, etc.), we refer interested readers to the attending physician.
Patients can also count on therapies other than pharmacological ones: psychotherapists and ergotherapists are essential partners. Therapies with cold or heat, massages, specific gymnastic exercises and aids help to prevent and contrast pain and less mobility. Spa treatments can also give relief and favorably influence various types of rheumatism. Speak to your rheumatologist for a prescription for a spa treatment.
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