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If the Cause of Death on the Death Certificate was “Rheumatism” or "Rheumatoid Arthritis," please add the profile to this project.

If Arthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis contributed to, but was NOT the primary cause of death, please see: Rheumatoid Arthritis (Living with) in the Medical Portal under Autoimmune Diseases.

If this project leads to a need for another project, please address it in this discussion: Cause of Death Projects needed???

Rheumatism or rheumatic disorder is an umbrella term and was used historically to describe a number of rheumatic conditions causing chronic, often intermittent pain to the joints, connective tissue or to soft tissues and muscles.

  • It is no longer used by medical professionals, who stress the importance of obtaining a specific diagnosis in order to get proper treatment.
  • The term rheumatism is a loosely used layperson term to describe rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Some countries use the word Rheumatism to describe fibromyalgia syndrome.
  • A specific diagnosis is important so the doctor can develop a tailored treatment plan.
  • The study of, and therapeutic interventions in, such disorders is called rheumatology.
    • Rheumatologists treat over 100 forms of rheumatic diseases and arthritis that includes major proportions of inflammatory rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and gout.
  • Rheumatic diseases, also called musculoskeletal diseases, are characterized by pain and a consequent reduction in the range of motion and function in one or more areas of the musculoskeletal system; in some diseases there are signs of inflammation: swelling, redness, warmth in the affected areas. Rheumatic diseases can also affect internal organs
    • It covers at least 200 different conditions
  • Some people use the word arthritis to refer to all rheumatic diseases. Arthritis, which literally means joint inflammation, is just part of the rheumatic diseases. Arthritis in the restricted sense primarily involves: joint pain, joint stiffness, joint inflammation, and joint damage.
  • Sources dealing with rheumatism tend to focus on arthritis, but "rheumatism" may also refer to other conditions causing chronic pain, grouped as "non-articular rheumatism", also known as "regional pain syndrome" or "soft tissue rheumatism"
  • Many rheumatic disorders of chronic, intermittent joint pain have historically been caused by infectious diseases. Their etiology was unknown until the 20th century and not treatable.
    • Rheumatic diseases caused by autoimmunity include:
      • Ankylosing spondylitis - the most common spondyloarthropathy, which may affect the hips, shoulders, and knees, in addition to the spine
      • Relapsing polychondritis - a multi-systemic condition characterized by repeated episodes of inflammation and deterioration of cartilage.
      • Systemic lupus erythematosus or simply lupus, an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in numerous parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, blood, lungs, heart, and brain
      • Rheumatoid arthritis - an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium, a soft tissue that lines the joints, leading to inflammation
      • Gout, inflammatory arthritis, pseudogout - a type of arthritis that develops when needle-like crystals of uric acid deposit in the joints, most often those of the big toe
      • Juvenile arthritis - the most common form of arthritis in children, which may be accompanied by fevers and rashes
      • Sjögren syndrome - a long-term autoimmune disease that affects the body's moisture-producing glands
      • Scleroderma - or systemic sclerosis - an autoimmune rheumatic disease that leads to a thickening and tightening of the skin and inflammation and scarring in various other parts of the body, including the blood vessels, joints, and certain organs
      • Polymyositis - a type of chronic inflammation of the muscles (inflammatory myopathy) related to dermatomyositis and inclusion body myositis.
      • Dermatomyositis - a long-term inflammatory disorder which affects muscles
      • Behçet's disease - a type of inflammatory disorder which affects multiple parts of the body
      • Psoriatic arthritis - a type of arthritis (and also considered a spondlyoarthropathy) that affects the fingers and toes and is associated with the skin disease psoriasis

History of Rheumatism:

  • Before the 17th century, the joint pain which was thought to be caused by viscous humours seeping into the joints was always referred to as gout, a word adopted in Middle English from Old French gote "a drop; the gout, rheumatism", not to be confused with the present day specific term referring to excess of uric acid.
  • The English term rheumatism in the current sense has been in use since the late 17th century, as it was believed that chronic joint pain was caused by excessive flow of rheum which means bodily fluids into a joint.

Arthritis and Rheumatism: What is the difference?

  • "Rheumatism" is no longer in the medical dictionary, it is still used informally to describe symptoms similar to those experienced in osteoarthritis.
  • Rheumatism and arthritis both tend to be used as descriptions for a variety of symptoms, such as joint pain and inflammation.
  • Medical professionals no longer use the word "rheumatism," but it remains in general language, there is no real difference between rheumatism and arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease (where the body attacks its own cells).
  • More than 50 million Americans are thought to be living with arthritis.
  • Over 300,000 children live with arthritis in the United States.
  • Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis often overlap, but have some fundamental differences and require different treatments.
  • Arthritis literally means "joint inflammation," but it is used as a collective term for a complex family of musculoskeletal (muscle and skeleton) disorders that include over 100 different diseases or conditions.
    • The Arthritis Foundation, a non-profit organization in the U.S., estimates that there are 53 million Americans living with arthritis.
    • Although the image that comes to mind when discussing arthritis is an older adult, arthritis can affect people of any age. In fact, two-thirds of the cases of arthritis are found in adults under the age of 65, and 300,000 children in America have arthritis.
  • The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis which are separate conditions.
    • In both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, joints will be stiff and painful in the morning. For osteoarthritis, this will last around 20 minutes, but for rheumatoid arthritis, it can last more than 45 minutes.
    • It is possible to have both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in different areas of the body.
    • Osteoarthritis does not cause rheumatoid arthritis, but rheumatoid arthritis can lead to secondary osteoarthritis by damaging the joint.
    • Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear on the joints.
    • In Rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks joints and other parts of the body

Diagnosis includes medical history, physical exam and x-rays

  • Some types of rheumatic diseases can be diagnosed by a general practitioner, while others may require a Rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of arthritis and related conditions.

Rheumatism Statistics & Mortality:

  • Inflammatory rheumatic disorders affect over 7 million Americans and of these 1.3 million adults have rheumatoid arthritis.
  • In Europe more than 100 million people are affected by rheumatic diseases. This is almost one quarter of the whole population.
  • It is seen from US statistics that that between 161,000 and 322,000 adults have lupus and nearly 300,000 American children suffer from rheumatic diseases, the most common of which is juvenile idiopathic arthritis or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).
  • Estimates suggest that one child in every 1,000 will develop some form of rheumatic disease and 8.4% women and 5% men during their lifetime will develop some form of rheumatic disease.
  • Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to suffer from rheumatoid disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and 10 times more likely to develop lupus than men. Females in Europe account for 60 percent of diagnosed cases.
  • Oxford Academic Rheumatology - What kills patients with rheumatoid arthritis? By C Kelly, J Hamilton. Rheumatolgy, Vol. 46, Issue 2, 1 Feb 2007, pgs 183-184.
  • HealthDay News - Rheumatoid Arthritis Death Rate Unchanged. By Carolyn Colwell
  • RA affects between 0.5 and 1% of adults in the developed world with between 5 and 50 per 100,000 people newly developing the condition each year. In 2010 it resulted in about 49,000 deaths globally.
  • From: Joint Health - Arthritis -- the real story
    • Arthritis and related conditions can lead to death. Two people per 100,000 die from arthritis, and a significant number more die from co-morbidities like heart attack/stroke, lymphomas and certain other types of cancer as a direct result of having arthritis.
    • We do not have an accurate count of people who die as a result of their arthritis. This is because the immediate cause of death is what is recorded, and not co-morbidities. In other words, a person can have rheumatoid arthritis for 15 years, and then develop lymphoma as a result of their arthritis. If that person were to die of lymphoma, the cause of death would be recorded as cancer, not arthritis.
    • Collectively, rheumatic diseases are not considered fatal or terminal.
  • Osteoarthritis and mortality have not been extensively studied, nor discussed. Mostly, osteoarthritis is associated with joint pain, physical disability, and functional limitations. It is usually rheumatoid arthritis, not osteoarthritis, that is connected to increased mortality and reduced life expectancy.
  • RA itself is not generally considered a lethal disease, but it can reduces lifespan on average from three to twelve years. The rate of mortality attributed to it as the main underlying cause of death is on the decline. Deaths in people with RA had previously been seen as complications of RA and its treatment.

References & Additional Reading:

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