Common Diseases and Conditions

While there are over 200 unique diseases that a rheumatologist might treat, there are some common signs and symptoms that most rheumatic diseases share including:

  • Joint stiffness
  • Swelling of one or more joints
  • Constant or recurring pain in a joint
  • Difficulty using a joint normally
  • Warmth and redness of a joint
  • Fatigue

These are some of the most common rheumatic diseases:


This known as the “wear and tear” arthritis and causes damage to the material that cushions the end of bones. When this material (cartilage) is damaged it can be painful and difficult for joints to move correctly. Osteoarthritis is a normal part of aging that can affect most parts of the body but knees, hips, lower back, neck, and fingers are affected more.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is when your immune system attacks its own tissues, which can cause joint swelling, stiffness and pain that can be severe. Sometimes rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent joint damage and deformity. This most often affects joints in the hands and feet and is more common in women.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Commonly this starts out as lower back pain and eventually can make it hard to perform everyday tasks. Gradually the back pain will make its way up to the neck and shoulder blades. Ankylosing Spondylitis affects young men starting in their teenage years up to age 30.


This is described as the hardening and tightening of skin and connective tissue. For most people more than the skin is affected such as blood vessels, internal organs, and the digestive tract.  Scleroderma affects women more than men and usually occurs between ages 30 and 50.

Sjogren’s Syndrome

This is an inflammatory autoimmune disease and can sometimes accompany rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. As of now the cause is unknown, but it is more frequent in women than men. Common signs and symptoms can include but are not limited to dry or irritated eyes, dry mouth, dental decay or diseases.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Also known as lupus, this is when the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and damages its own healthy cells and tissues. Eventually this can cause inflammation of and damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain. The cause of lupus is unknown but can due to genetic and environmental stimuli.