Rheumatology Frequently Asked Questions

What is Rheumatology?

A specialty focusing on the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the joints, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and related structures.

Below are some answers to the most frequently asked questions relating to Rheumatology.

1.  What are Rheumatic diseases and what is Arthritis?

Rheumatic diseases are characterized by inflammation, redness, heat, swelling, pain and loss of function of one or more connecting or supporting structures of the body. They primarily affect joints, bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles.  The word “Arthritis” is often used to describe all rheumatic diseases but the word actually means joint inflammation.

2.  Rheumatoid Arthritis – Why Me?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) affects people regardless of age, sex, race, class or country.  The causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis are not fully understood, but it is felt that Genetic, Environmental or other Trigger factors may have a part to play.

3. What are the general symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

  • Swelling in one or more joints.
  • Stiffness of the joints.
  • Constant or recurring pain or tenderness in a joint.
  • Difficulty in moving a joint normally.
  • Warmth or redness of a joint.

4. What Happens if you get Rheumatoid Arthritis?

RA is a chronic (persistent) disorder, which is unlikely to go away once established. Symptoms tend to vary, and are characterised by “flare-ups” (when symptoms are much worse), and quieter periods or “remissions” (when symptoms are much better).

RA affects everybody differently, and some cases are more severe than others. Different joints can be involved.  Effective treatments can help to reduce long-term joint damage and disability.

5.  What treatments are available for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Some drugs can relieve a great deal of pain and stiffness, as well as helping to control the disease and prevent it getting worse.  There are a number of different types of drugs used, including:

  • Analgesics (painkillers) – such as paracetamol.  These help to relieve pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs – relieve pain, stiffness and swelling in joints.
  • Disease Modifying Drugs – help to suppress the activity of the Arthritis and prevent or reduce damage to the joints.  These drugs require medical supervision, and blood tests to monitor patients safely.
  • Steroids – are powerful, natural anti-inflammatory agents and can be used both in injection and tablet form.  They are used with care as they can have side effects.
  • Biologic Drugs – are a new group of drugs used for severe Arthritis.

6.  Where can people find out more about Arthritis and Rheumatic diseases?

Please see the “Useful Links ” section on the left hand side of Rheumatology Department's home page.