Rheumatologic diseases are not as common as other diseases such as hypertension or diabetes but taken together is a common occurrence . Pain in joints and muscle are quite common and tend to resolve with time and rest. However occasionally they may get inflammed (warm,swollen) and require medications.It is best that these inflammatory conditions are treated early to prevent long term damage to the joints.
Some clues that suggest inflammation are
- Pain after rest.
- Stiffness upon waking up, lasting for at least 30 minutes.
- Presence of warmth or swelling.
- Pain reduces after 10 am.
- Pain with movement of joint at night.
- Persistent pain in the same joint for more than a week or two.
As several good medications are available for reducing inflammation, one should approach the Rheumatologist if there is persistent swelling or pain. If damage occurs and the bone or cartilage is eroded, it will become irreversible and deformities may become permanent. It is important to address inflammation similar to fire. Small fires can be put out with a bucket of water and damage is limited. Large fires are difficult to control and results in extensive damage. Similarly early inflammation can be controlled with anti-inflammatory drugs while long standing extensive inflammation may need high doses of steroids and several medications to control it.
Common concerns expressed by patients
- I don’t want to take pain killers.
- Medicines cause kidney and liver problems.
- It will become an addiction.
- I can bear the pain.
Medicines do have side effects but are rare (less than 5%) when used carefully. Pain killers are actually anti-inflammatory medications and help reduce inflammation. Short courses of pain killers (Non-steroidal anti-inflamatory drugs: NSAIDs) are safe in the majority of patients. Smaller doses may be adequate. They are not addicting. Certain pain control medicines are addicting, but these are rarely prescribed. Besides pain killers there are other medications which are used for treatment of Rheumatologic diseases that have shown to control the disease. Compared to damage caused by some diseases, the potential side effects of the drug is insignificant. If some body is not taking treatment there will be 100 % chance of damage,.
So please don’t let the fear and anxiety of adverse effects (that most likely will not happen) hold you from treating what can become a disabling,deadly disease.