Rheumatic diseases are autoimmune and inflammatory diseases that cause your immune system to attack your joints, muscles, bones and organs. Rheumatic diseases are often grouped under the term “arthritis” — which is used to describe over 100 diseases and conditions. This does not include the most common form of arthritis, known as osteoarthritis, which results in a breakdown of bone and cartilage in joints rather than inflammation.
Rheumatic diseases can cause damage to your vital organs, including the lungs, heart, nervous system, kidneys, skin and eyes. Rheumatic diseases may result in conditions so severe that those who suffer from them cannot bathe or dress themselves. Additionally, a simple task such as walking can cause pain and be difficult or even impossible.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, involves the wearing away of the cartilage that caps the bones in your joints. With rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial membrane that protects and lubricates joints becomes inflamed, causing pain and swelling. Joint erosion may follow.