Other conditions

There are many other conditions that are seen in the rheumatology unit, which are managed with the support of the GP and specialties such as dermatology or gastroenterology, or specialist centres elsewhere in the country.  These conditions are less common but require specialist input to ensure patients can continue to live their lives fully.  Below are some of these conditions:

 

Connective Tissue disorders-

  • Sjogrens syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Myositis
  • Scleroderma

Systemic Vasculitis –

  • Behcets disease
  • Giant Cell Arteritis
  • Takaysu’s Arteritis
  • ANCA-associated vasculitis

 

Sjogrens Syndrome

Sjogrens syndrome is an autoimmune condition, where immune cells attack the glands that produce fluids, like tears and saliva, causing dry eyes and mouth.  However, it can also cause wider symptoms such as fatigue and joint pain and can effect some organs such as the kidneys, lungs, liver and central nervous system.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Symptoms vary from person to person, but most common is dry eyes, dry mouth and fatigue.  As these areas are dry, they can become sore, ulcers and bleeding can occur, which can effect chewing and swallowing.  Severity of these symptoms, and how they effect daily life significantly varies between individuals; some people have no symptoms at all.

WHO IS AFFECTED?

The disease mainly effects woman, with approximately 9 in 10 people being diagnosed being female.  It is typically diagnosed between the ages of 40 to 60 years, but it can affect anyone at any age.

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

The exact cause of Sjogrens is unknown, but it is thought there may be a genetic link.  Also, female hormones may play a role, which could explain why it is mostly woman affected by the disease.

TREATMENTS

There is no cure for Sjogrens, but there are many treatments to help with symptoms.  For example, if you have dry eyes, you may be given eye drops to help relieve this,  You may consider wearing glasses that wrap around to help prevent wind drying the eyes, and attending regular opticians to check eye health.  A doctor may prescribe medications to help with the production of tears.

Good oral hygiene is also very important, and you can keep your mouth moist with regular water, sucking ice cubes or chewing sugar free gum to stimulate saliva production.

People can also suffer from dry skin, and women from vaginal dryness.  Speak to a pharmacist about creams that can be used safely on the skin.  And woman may wish to consider lubricants or creams that can be used intimately to ease vaginal symptoms.

 

For more information and support on Sjogrens visit – https://www.sjogrens.org/

 

Lupus

Lupus, also called systemic lupus erythematosus, is an autoimmune condition that can effect almost any part of the body.   People can have mild disease, mainly causing joint and skin problems, to more severe disease where damage can happen to important organs such as the lungs, heart, brain or kidneys.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Lupus is known as the disease with 1000 faces, as it effects people very differently and can have many different symptoms.  This makes Lupus difficult to diagnose.  There are some blood tests which can help with diagnosing Lupus, combined with assessing symptoms.  For example:

  • fatigue (tiredness no matter how much you rest)
  • joint pain/swelling
  • skin rashes – mainly across the bridge of the nose and across the cheeks
  • unexplained fever (a temperature without a cause)

WHO IS EFFECTED?

More women than men get lupus, and it’s more common in black and Asian women.  Currently in the UK, it is thought that up to 1 in 1000 people have Lupus.  Although lupus affects people of all ages, it’s most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 45.

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

As with most autoimmune diseases, there is no specific known cause for developing Lupus.  However, often the lupus patient has family members with an autoimmune condition such as rheumatism, MS, thyroid problems, diabetes, Raynauds, scleroderma or Sjogrens.   It is also possible that a viral infection, strong medication, sunlight, trauma, around puberty, after childbirth and the menopause can all contribute. Environmental factors may also contribute in some way.

TREATMENTS

Early diagnosis and treatment of Lupus is important.  It is important to protect your skin in the sun by wearing a hat, covering up and using high factor sun cream (factor 50+).  Try and remain active, even on hard days.  Medical treatments may include:

  • anti-inflammatories
  • a medication called Hydroxychloroquine
  • steroids
  • immune suppressing medications can be used in severe Lupus.

 

For more information and support on Lupus visit – https://www.lupusuk.org.uk/

 

Myositis

The word myositis simple means inflammation of the muscles.  Myositis is a group of rare conditions that effect the muscles, typically around the shoulders, hips and thighs.  It can also effect the heart and lungs, and the muscles that support breathing and swallowing.  There are 2 main types of myositis – polymyositis and dermatomyositis.  “Poly” means many, so polymyositis means many muscles are effected.  “Derma” means skin, so this type of myositis can cause a rash as well as the muscle symptoms.   Myositis is believed to be an auto-immune condition.  There are other forms of myositis which are rarer.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Symptoms can vary from person to person, but typically include

  • generally feeling unwell
  • weight loss
  • muscles feeling tired after every day tasks
  • muscle swelling, or tenderness to touch
  • night sweats
  • falling over
  • there can be a rash, which is linked to the dermatomyositis

These symptoms can also represent other conditions or side effects from medication, so myositis can be tricky to diagnose.

WHO IS EFFECTED?

Myositis can affect anyone at any age, including children.  In the UK, it is thought there are 6-8 people per 100,00 with a form of myositis, but detection of the disease is improving so these numbers are likely to increase.  It typically presents between the ages of 30-60 years, but there is also a peek around the mid-teens.

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

The cause of myositis remains unknown, but it is thought there could be both genetic and environmental factors.  But there is no way to predict who may be effected.

TREATMENTS

Immediate treatment for myositis is often steroids, and flares of the condition may also be managed with steroids.  Exercise is really important, and should be offered physiotherapy to help you plan an exercise regime appropriate to you.  If on reducing steroids symptoms return, you may be offered other medical treatments such as:

  • Disease modifying medication to reduce inflammation such as Methotrexate, azathioprine or mycophenolate.  These medications should also help you reduce your steroid dose, or come off the steroids completely.
  • Medications such as rituximab and cyclophosphamide may be sued if your disease doesn’t respond to the conventional medications.

Myositis usually responds well to treatment, although treatment with some medication is likely to be life-long.

 

For more information and support on Myositis visit – https://www.myositis.org.uk/

 

Scleroderma

Scleroderma is another rare condition that effects the skin, but can also effect organs and blood vessels.  ‘Sclero’ comes from the Greek word for hard, and ‘derma’ means skin.  The immune system becomes over active and starts to attack healthy tissue.  The hardening of the skin is usually one of the first noticeable symptoms, but Scleroderma can effect joints, tendons and internal organs.  This is due to the body producing excess collagen which can cause scaring to develop and prevent the affected parts of the body working properly.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

 

 

WHO IS EFFECTED?

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

TREATMENTS

 

For more information and support on Scleroderma, visithttps://www.sruk.co.uk/

 

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