Many people have believed that rheumatism was brought on by bad weather or strenuous activity, and a number of folk cures have been used throughout the ages with varying degrees of success.
In modern medicine the term 'rheumatism' has fallen out of favor and we are now able to be more specific in our diagnoses. Physicians use the term Arthritis (from Greek arthro-, joint + -itis, inflammation) to describe the group of conditions involving damage to the joints of the body; within this group are over 100 seperate arthritides, or types of arthritis, and each may be diagnosed and treated differently. Physical exams, x-rays and lab tests are used to tell what specific kind of arthritis a person has.
Forty-six million Americans have arthritis or other rheumatic conditions, and it is the most common cause of disability in the United States. In addition, juvenile and pediatric arthritis affects over 294,000 U.S. children under age 18. Women of all ages bear a disproportionate burden of arthritis compared with men.
All arthritides feature pain, although it may differ depending on the arthritide and the location that is affected. In the elderly or in children pain might not be the main presenting feature; an older patient may simply move less, or an infantile patient may refuse to use the affected limb.
The history of the disorder in each patient is used to guide diagnosis. Important features that a physician will consider are the speed and time of pain onset, the pattern and symmetry of joints affected, whether there is early morning stiffness or tenderness, whether the affected joint "gells" or locks with inactivity, and the factors that may aggravate or relieve the symptoms.
Treatment options vary depending on the type of arthritis and include physical and occupational therapy, lifestyle changes (including exercise and weight control), medications and dietary supplements. Arthroplasty (joint replacement surgery) may be required in severe forms of arthritis. Studies have shown that physical exercise of the affected joint can have noticeable improvement in terms of long-term pain relief, and exercising the arthritic joint is encouraged to maintain the health of the particular joint and the overall body of the person.
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