Types of Rheumatism

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

There are between 100-150 rheumatic disease varieties and the term rheumatism is a layperson term describing joint pain and stiffness and not specifically rheumatic disorders.

For example, most of the traditional descriptions of rheumatism describe aches and pains in the joints as a person ages. Many of these cases were actually osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is not included in the inflammatory joint disorders termed rheumatic disorders. However, when describing the rheumatism disorders both inflammatory and non inflammatory forms may be included.

Inflammatory and non-inflammatory disorders

Rheumatism or rheumatic disorders have two forms:-

  • Non-inflammatory disorders including orsteoarthritis
  • Inflammatory disorders affecting joints, muscles and bones. These are further classified as:-
    • Articular or the one affecting joints that commonly includes rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, spondylitis etc.
    • Non-articular or the ones that affect soft tissues, muscles and lead to pain syndromes

Non-inflammatory rheumatic diseases

  • Osteoarthritis that may affect the major joints including hips, knees and hands
  • Degenerative spine diseases that affect the neck, back and lumbar spine leading to lower back pain with aging
  • Osteoporosis or brittle bones that result in frequent fractures with little trauma
  • Fibromyalgia syndrome or regional pain syndromes

Inflammatory rheumatic diseases

  • Articular or those associated with the joint causing inflammation:-
    • Rheumatoid Arthritis that leads to intense joint swelling, redness, and stiffness and finally deformity and immobility
    • Ankylosing spondylitis is another form that leads to joint inflammation and fusion of the joints. It most commonly affects the spine.
    • Lupus
    • Gout that is caused by deposition of crystals of uric acid within the joints leading to severe inflammatory changes and pain.
    • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis that affects children under 16 and may leave then crippled.
    • Spondylarthritides
    • Bursitis or inflammation of the fluid filled sac or cushion like structures called bursa at the joints
    • Tendinitis or inflammation of the tendons that are thin, strong wiry connections between the muscles and the bones at the joints. Commonly affected areas include hips, knees and ankles.
    • Capsulitis or inflammation of the capsule like sheaths that surround the joint spaces.
    • Tenosynovitis or inflammation of the tendons and of the synovial fluids that act as cushions between the joint spaces.
    • Psoriatic arthritis or arthritis that is associated with the skin disorder Psoriasis.
    • Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease that is caused due to infection and associated inflammatory reactions of the body.
  • Non-articular or those affecting other soft tissues and organs as well:-
    • Connective tissue diseases 
    • Polymyalgia rheumatic
    • Systemic vasculitis like giant cell arteritis
    • Temporal arteritis
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
    • Sjögren’s syndrome
    • Scleroderma

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Mar 7, 2013

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