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An Overview of Rheumatic Diseases

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) usually starts gradually as lower back pain. The hallmark feature of AS is the involvement of the joints at the base of the spine. This is where the spine attaches to the pelvis, also known as the sacroiliac joints.

Ankylosing spondylitis is more common in young men, especially from the teenage years to age 30.

AS symptoms include:

  • Gradual pain in the lower back and buttocks
  • Lower back pain that worsens and works its way up the spine
  • Pain felt between the shoulder blades and in the neck
  • Pain and stiffness in the back, especially at rest and on arising
  • Pain and stiffness get better after activity
  • Pain in the middle back and then upper back and neck (after 5-10 years)

With progression of AS, the spine may become stiffer. It may become difficult to bend for common everyday activities.

To diagnose AS, your doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam. X-rays of the back looking at the sacroiliac joints may help in making an AS diagnosis. A positive blood test for HLA-B27 protein may help confirm a diagnosis as well.

Sjogren's Syndrome

Sjogren's syndrome is an inflammatory, autoimmune disease. It can occur with other autoimmune diseases such as RA and lupus, but also on its own. Although the cause of Sjogren's is unknown, it is more common in women.

Sjogren's signs and symptoms include:

  • Dry eyes (the glands in eyes do not make adequate tears)
  • Eye irritation and burning
  • Dry mouth (the glands in mouth do not give adequate saliva)
  • Dental decay, gum disease, thrush
  • Swelling of the parotid glands on the sides of the face
  • Joint pain and stiffness (rarely)
  • Internal organ diseases (rarely)

To diagnose Sjogren's syndrome, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Blood tests and other tests may also be performed. A simple biopsy of the inner lip or other area may help confirm the diagnosis.

Treatments for Rheumatic Diseases

Treatments for rheumatic diseases include medications to improve symptoms and control disease.

Along with drugs, other parts of a treatment plan include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Balanced diet
  • Stress reduction
  • Rest

Working with a rheumatologist can help you find the best ways to manage your condition.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 10, 2014

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