Rheumatism: recognizing symptoms and treating them with nutrition | NDR.de – Guide

Status: 05/31/2022 10:28 am

Joints hurt, muscles tear, morning stiffness characterizes everyday life: millions of Germans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Medications, exercise and the right diet alleviate the symptoms.

Doctors today summarize around 400 different diseases under the generic term “rheumatic diseases” – these include gout, lupus erythematosus, vascular diseases (vasculitis) and many more. Rheumatic diseases affect people of all ages, even children can suffer from rheumatism.

Rheumatism mostly occurs in the musculoskeletal system, but not only affects “hard” structures such as bones, joints or cartilage, but also “soft parts” such as muscles, ligaments or tendons. Even organs, pleura or nerves can be affected.

Rheumatism also damages the blood vessels. Affected people can have heart attacks and strokes much earlier. If left untreated, the disease affects life expectancy.

Rheumatic diseases can be divided into four main groups:

  • inflammatory rheumatic diseases
  • Wear-related (degenerative) joint and spinal diseases
  • soft tissue rheumatism
  • Metabolic diseases with rheumatic complaints (pararheumatic diseases)

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common rheumatic diseases

The most common is rheumatoid arthritis (formerly known as chronic polyarthritis, cP), a progressive joint inflammation in which the inner lining of joints, tendon sheaths or bursae is attacked. An estimated 800,000 people in Germany suffer from it, including almost three times as many women as men. The disease usually begins in the second half of life. In Germany, however, around 15,000 children are also affected. Rheumatism has not yet been cured, but it can be treated easily: If the disease is detected early enough, the inflammation can be stopped or slowed down.

Further information

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Symptoms: Pain and morning stiffness in the joints

Rheumatoid arthritis sometimes manifests itself initially in a non-specific manner with exhaustion, and rarely also fever. The first concrete signs are warm, swollen or reddened joints. Typically, the joints are affected symmetrically, for example both thumbs. The disease often begins in the metatarsophalangeal joints of the fingers and toes, which hurt at night and feel stiff for over an hour in the morning.

The disease can be slow and mild. In some – often older – patients, however, the joints deform very quickly, stiffen and cause severe pain. The patients can then no longer cope with their everyday life without help.

Rheumatism or arthrosis?

The diagnosis is not always easy to make. It is relatively easy for young patients because they usually do not show any signs of wear and tear on their joints. In older patients suffering from osteoarthritis, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the difference. And both diseases can be present at the same time.

Diagnosis with blood test, ultrasound and MRI

DAS evaluation on a tablet.  © NDR

The rheumatism index DAS 28 determines the inflammatory activity of the disease.

If several joints are inflamed for more than six weeks, there is a suspicion of rheumatoid arthritis. The doctor will take blood: increased blood sedimentation and increased CRP (C-reactive protein) generally indicate inflammation. If the so-called rheumatoid factor and certain antibodies can also be detected, then the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is considered certain. However, there is also a “seronegative” form of this disease, in which rheumatoid factor and antibodies are absent. The inflamed, thickened synovial membrane can be seen on ultrasound.

Imaging procedures such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can show whether there is already damage to bones or cartilage.

The rheumatism index DAS 28

The DAS 28 (Disease Activity Score 28 – disease activity index for the 28 finger, hand, elbow, shoulder and knee joints examined) describes the progression of the disease. Parameters are the number of tender and swollen joints, the blood cell lowering speed and the patient’s assessment of his illness. A DAS28 below 2.6 is considered remission. At values ​​up to 3.2, the rheumatism is considered inactive, values ​​above 5.1 mean high inflammatory activity.

Cause: Autoimmune reaction triggers inflammation

The causes of rheumatoid arthritis are not yet fully understood. It seems certain that autoimmune processes are involved and that the immune system of those affected fights the body’s own tissue. Misdirected immune cells – stimulated by certain messenger substances, the interleukins – get into the joints and cause inflammation there. As a result, the inner lining of the joint scars and proliferates more and more, cartilage and ligaments are damaged. This hurts, leads to restricted movement and – if not treated in time and adequately – to the destruction of the joint.

A combination of several factors may be responsible for the malfunctioning of the immune system. In addition to a genetic predisposition, these include smoking and possibly other environmental toxins.

Bester Therapy success with fast and consistent treatment

Two hands with colored spots.  © NDR

The optical imaging method, which works with a fluorescent dye and near-infrared light, shows foci of inflammation in the finger joints.

Like most rheumatic diseases, rheumatoid arthritis is one of the chronic diseases. However, those affected can slow down the progression of the disease or even bring it to a complete standstill. The prognosis is particularly favorable if you start therapy within the first three months. Those affected should therefore consult a rheumatologist in good time.

Medication: Immunosuppressants against inflammation are the basis

Together with the patient, the specialist draws up a treatment plan that relies on modern anti-inflammatory drugs. So-called immunosuppressive drugs such as methotrexate and so-called TNF inhibitors, which dampen certain excessive functions of the immune system, are usually used.

Rheumatism nutrition: Anti-inflammatory nutrition can alleviate

A special anti-inflammatory diet also helps. Meat should only rarely be on the table because it contains a lot of pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid. Good fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, as well as plant minerals and antioxidants help fight inflammation. Stems and leaves that we throw away when cooking are particularly rich in these valuable substances and can be processed into delicious green smoothies, for example. This diet also protects the heart.

Exercise and physiotherapy for rheumatism

Regular exercise helps to reduce any pain and maintain the mobility of the joints: Physiotherapy exercises improve the mobility of the joints and train the surrounding muscles.

Cold and heat therapy in acute rheumatic attacks

Heat, cold or electrotherapy (TENS) can also be used to support this. For example, in an acute flare-up, many people with rheumatism find relief by moving their hands in a bowl of rapeseed for ten minutes. Many use them chilled in the fridge, but those who prefer heat can pop the seeds in the microwave for a short time. You can get rapeseed in health food stores, health food stores or directly from a mill.

Rheumatic pain: when is surgery necessary?

In the advanced stage, an operation is unavoidable for some of those affected, in which the destroyed joints are replaced with a prosthesis or, if this is not possible, stiffened, for example.

Further information

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The Nutrition Docs | 05/31/2022 | 8:15 p.m

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