Rheumatology - What we do
At Southeastern Arthritis Center we treat a variety of auto-immune related illnesses. Some of the more frequent diagnoses we see involve Arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Lupus. We've included some information below about these diseases. We invite anyone with questions to make an appointment with one of our highly skilled physicians to learn more.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a form of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. For reasons no one fully understands, in rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system - which is designed to protect our health by attacking foreign cells such as viruses and bacteria - instead attacks the body's own tissues, specifically the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints. As a result of the attack, fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain in the joints and inflammation that's systemic - meaning it can occur throughout the body.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, meaning it can't be cured. Most people with RA experience intermittent bouts of intense disease activity, called flares. In some people the disease is continuously active and gets worse over time. Others enjoy long periods of remission - no disease activity or symptoms at all. Evidence shows that early diagnosis and aggressive treatment to put the disease into remission is the best means of avoiding joint destruction, organ damage and disability.

Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms and course of rheumatoid arthritis vary from person to person and can change on a daily basis. Your joints may feel warm to the touch and you might notice a decreased range of motion, as well as inflammation, swelling and pain in the areas around the affected joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is symmetrical, meaning if a joint on one side of the body is affected, the corresponding joint on the other side of the body is also involved. Because the inflammation is systemic, you're likely to feel fatigued and you may become anemic, lose your appetite and run a low-grade fever.

Long-Term Effects
Rheumatoid arthritis may affect many different joints and cause damage to cartilage, tendons and ligaments - it can even wear away the ends of your bones. One common outcome is joint deformity and disability. Some people with RA develop rheumatoid nodules; lumps of tissue that form under the skin, often over bony areas exposed to pressure. These occur most often around the elbows but can be found elsewhere on the body, such as on the fingers, over the spine or on the heels. Over time, the inflammation that characterizes RA can also affect numerous organs and internal systems.

If you've been diagnosed with osteoarthritis (OA), you're not alone. This chronic disease affects some 27 million Americans. OA is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage - the part of a joint that cushions the ends of the bones and allows easy movement. As cartilage deteriorates, bones begin to rub against one another. This can cause stiffness and pain that make it difficult for you to use that joint. Osteoarthritis can also damage ligaments, menisci and muscles. Over time OA may create a need for joint replacements.

There are two types of OA - primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis is generally associated with aging and the "wear and tear" of life. The older you are, the more likely you are to have some degree of primary osteoarthritis. However, not everyone gets it - not even the very old. That's because OA is a disease, and not part of the normal aging process. Secondary osteoarthritis, in contrast, tends to develop relatively early in life, typically 10 or more years after a specific cause, such as an injury or obesity.

Osteoarthritis occurs most often in knees, hips and hands. Other joints, particularly the shoulders, can also be affected. OA rarely affects other joints, except as a result of injury or unusual physical stress.

The pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis can make it difficult to do daily activities including your job, play sports or even get around with ease. That's why it's important to learn all you can about this disease, how it affects you and how to live with it - a process called self management.

Signs and Symptoms
Usually joints affected by osteoarthritis ache or become painful or stiff first thing in the morning, or during or after use. They may also be stiff after periods of inactivity. It's important to remain physically active despite any initial discomfort you might feel. Exercise keeps joints moving, which helps them stay lubricated. It also builds strength in the muscles surrounding the affected joint, so they can support it.

What is Lupus
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years. In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs ("foreign invaders," like the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body's healthy tissues ("auto" means "self") and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.
  • Lupus is also a disease of flares (the symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better). Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor. With good medical care, most people with lupus can lead a full life.
  • Lupus is not contagious, not even through sexual contact. You cannot "catch" lupus from someone or "give" lupus to someone.
  • Lupus is not like or related to cancer. Cancer is a condition of malignant, abnormal tissues that grow rapidly and spread into surrounding tissues. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, as described above.
  • Lupus is not like or related to HIV (Human Immune Deficiency Virus) or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). In HIV or AIDS the immune system is underactive; in lupus, the immune system is overactive.
  • Our research estimates that at least 1.5 million Americans have lupus. The actual number may be higher; however, there have been no large-scale studies to show the actual number of people in the U.S. living with lupus.
  • It is believed that 5 million people throughout the world have a form of lupus.
  • Lupus strikes mostly women of childbearing age (15-44). However, men, children, and teenagers develop lupus, too.
  • Women of color are 2-3 times more likely to develop lupus.
  • People of all races and ethnic groups can develop lupus.
  • More than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported annually across the country.
Living with Lupus
If you have been diagnosed with lupus, you will want to know as much as you can about this complex disease. As part of the LFA's web based education program, this section was created to give you tips and tools to help you understand how lupus can affect your body, and how you can make lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible.

Exercise, Fatigue and Photosensitivity
Exercise is to be encouraged in people with lupus. This section will cover those issues that can hinder your ability to make to most of your day and maintaining a healthy life style. Learn strategies that can help you better understand and cope with: fatigue; rest; and sensitivity to light.

Infections and Immunizations
An individual with lupus is more susceptible to infection than most people. This can be due to the lupus itself affecting your immune system, and the medications used to treat your lupus. In this section you will find information on the impact of infections, what to look for, fevers and how vaccines and immunizations can help you.

Flu and Pneumonia Vaccines
When a person has lupus, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This section has information on the seasonal flu and pneumonia vaccines as well as current and updated information on the H1N1 flu and vaccine.

Pain and inflammation are common in people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This section will look at how pain occurs, its possible affect on you and strategies that may help reduce your pain.

There is no one cause of clinical depression in lupus; rather, there are various and different factors contributing to depression in chronic illnesses such as lupus. This section is an overview on how depression may be affecting you life and some strategies to lessen their impact.

Memory Loss and "Lupus Fog"
At some point during the course of their lupus, up to 50 percent of lupus patients describe feelings of confusion, fatigue, memory impairment, and difficulty expressing their thoughts. This collection of symptoms is called cognitive dysfunction or "Lupus Fog," and is found in people with mild to moderately active SLE. This section will discuss the impact that lupus can have on your memory and concentration and explore was to lessen their impact.

Diet and Nutrition
No one questions the necessity of a well-balanced diet. Fad diets -- advocating an excess or an exclusion of certain types of foods -- are much more likely to hurt rather than help in any disease, including lupus. This section discusses how you can help your diet work for you to enhance your overall well being.

The use of antihistamines, decongestants, and steroids for seasonal allergies generally poses no problems when you have lupus. However, allergy shots may trigger a lupus flare. It is best to discuss allergy treatment with both your lupus doctor and your allergist.

As bad as tobacco products are for everyone, their use is even more dangerous when you have lupus. Cigarette smoking has been linked to the development of many autoimmune diseases, including lupus. Smoking can impair your body's entire circulatory system, including your heart and blood vessels, and can increase your risk for atherosclerosis (cholesterol deposits in the arteries), a condition that is already seen in increased numbers in people with lupus. Flares of cutaneous (skin) lupus have been linked to an ingredient in tobacco. Therefore, one of the most important things you can do for your health is to stop smoking, and to avoid second-hand smoke.

© 2012 Southeastern Integrated Medical, PL