What Are Rheumatic Diseases?

Rheumatic diseases are those that affect the joints and muscles, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, notes WebMD. Immune system problems cause some rheumatic diseases, while wear and tear of the joints and muscles cause others.

Osteoarthritis is a rheumatic disease in which the cartilage at the end of bones wears down, causing pain and difficulty in moving areas such as the knees, hips, neck, fingers and back, states WebMD. In addition to pain, people with osteoarthritis may also suffer from swelling, warmth and stiffness of affected joints, and they may have difficulty walking, sitting or gripping objects.

People with rheumatoid arthritis experience pain and swelling in multiple joints, fatigue, problems in other organs, joints stiffness and lumps known as rheumatoid nodules that are not part of the normal aging process, according to WebMD. This rheumatic disease occurs when the body's immune system attacks healthy tissues.

Lupus is an autoimmune rheumatic disease that may affect many organs in the body and can lead to symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue, rashes, hair loss and blood disorders, states WebMD. Lupus may lead to a condition called Raynaud's phenomenon, in which patients' fingers and toes turn blue or white when exposed to cold. It may also lead to inflammation of the lining of the heart or lungs as well as seizures and strokes.

Fibromyalgia is a common disorder that presents with widespread musculoskeletal pains, fatigue, sleep and mood issues, notes Mayo Clinic. Symptoms begin after an infection, physical trauma, significant psychological stress or surgery. Since it is a chronic condition, symptoms of fibromyalgia never disappear completely. However, there are many medications to control the disorder. Relaxation, exercises and stress-reduction measures sometimes also help, indicates Everyday Health.

Ankylosing spondylitis affects the joints where the spine attaches to the pelvis. It usually starts as lower back pain and is common in young men, states Everyday Health. Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis include pain and stiffness after activity, gradual pain in the lower back, and lower back pain that works its way up the spine, notes WebMD.

Rheumatoid arthritis destroys the synovial tissues, causing pain, swelling and stiffness throughout the body, indicates Everyday Health. Osteoarthritis destroys cartilage and bone, causing disability and pain, notes WebMD. It is the most common type of arthritis, and affects more than 27 million adults in the United States, indicates, Everyday Health.