At Capital Health – Rheumatology Specialists, we diagnose and treat diseases involving the muscles, joints, bones, and immune system commonly referred to as rheumatic diseases. Several of these are autoimmune in origin. Autoimmune diseases are complex conditions that can affect almost any part of the body. A healthy immune system helps protect your body from outside invaders, like a cold virus or bacteria in minor cuts and scrapes. But problems with your immune system may cause it to treat healthy cells in your own body as invaders. The most common symptom is inflammation that can cause pain and swelling. Our team helps patients affected by autoimmune diseases by understanding and accurately diagnosing a range of conditions, including (but not limited to):
- Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine primarily.
- Antiphospholipid syndrome symptoms vary, but may include blood clots, miscarriage, rash, chronic headaches, dementia, and seizures. It occurs when your body's immune system phospholipids, a type of fat found in all living cells, including blood cells and the lining of blood vessels.
- Catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome (CAPS) is a rare form of this condition, in which multiple blood clots form throughout the body over a short period of time and cause life-threatening multi-organ failure.
- Enteropathic arthritis is a form of chronic, inflammatory arthritis associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The two best-known types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
- Dermatomyositis causes skin changes (such a skin rash around the eyelids and red bumps around the joints) and muscle weakness in the arms and legs.
- Giant cell arteritis causes swelling and thickening of the temporal artery and can occur with polymyalgia rheumatica.
- Inclusion body myositis is a progressive muscle disorder characterized by muscle inflammation, weakness, and atrophy (wasting).
- IgG4-related disease can affect multiple organ systems, and patients affected by it may experience autoimmune pancreatitis, swelling of an organ system, salivary gland disease, swollen lymph nodes and symptoms consistent with allergies or asthma.
Also referred to as systemic lupus erythematosus, it can affect multiple organs and can cause fatigue, rashes, and joint pain.
- Microscopic polyarteritis can affect many of the body’s organ systems, including (but not limited to) the kidneys, peripheral nerves, skin, and lungs. The most common symptoms are fever, weight, kidney inflammation, skin lesions, and nerve damage.
- Mixed connective tissue disease is a rare disorder that is characterized by symptoms commonly seen in three different connective tissue disorders: lupus, scleroderma, and polymyositis.
- Osteoarthritis is a degenerative form of arthritis, commonly referred to as "wear and tear" arthritis, commonly affecting knees, hips, shoulders.
- Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bones caused by a shortage of calcium and other minerals in them. This decrease in bone mineral density makes the bones brittle and prone to fracture.
- Paget's disease is characterized by abnormal bone destruction and regrowth, which results in deformity. It can affect any of the bones in the body but is most commonly seen in the spine, pelvis, skull, or leg bones and causes them to break more easily.
- Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)
PMR is seen in adults over age 50 and causes general aching and stiffness.
Polymyositis and dermatomyositis are autoimmune inflammatory diseases affecting the muscles and blood vessels causing loss muscle mass and weakness.
- Psoriatic arthritis is more commonly seen in association with psoriasis of skin (may be seen without it as well) and affects joints in the back, pelvis, and extremities.
- Rheumatic diseases also include gout and pseudogout, which are secondary to deposition of abnormal crystals in the joints.
- Relapsing polychondritis is a rare condition in which patients experience recurrent inflammation of cartilage. It most commonly affects the ear, though it may occur in other areas of the body.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by joint swelling and pain, leading to deformities if untreated. May involve eyes, lungs, and heart.
- Sarcoidosis is the growth of tiny cells called granulomas. If these cells clump together in an organ, they can affect the organ's structure and function and lead to permanent scarring or thickening of the organ tissue (also called fibrosis).
- Scleroderma is characterized by thickening of the skin due to fibrosis (scarring), which can also involve the lungs and gastrointestinal system.
- Sjogren’s syndrome primarily attacks the glands that produce tears and saliva, impairing the glands' ability to secrete these fluids.
- Still's disease is a characterized by symptoms that include (but are not limited to) high fevers, rash, sore throat, and joint pain. Symptoms may come and go and several joints may be affected at the same time and often remain stiff for several hours in the morning. Still’s disease may lead to chronic arthritis and other complications.
- Vasculitis causes inflammation of the blood vessels, including veins and arteries and affects the organs they supply.
- Behchet’s disease is widespread inflammation of blood vessels that most commonly affects small blood vessels in the mouth, genitals, skin, and eyes.
- Cryoglobulinemic vasculitis occurs when the body makes a mix of abnormal immune system proteins called cryoglobulins, which can become solid or gel-like and can block blood vessels, leading to other health problems. Many people may not experience any symptoms at first, but when they occur they can include purplish skin, weakness, joint pain, liver disease, and kidney problems.
- Granulomatosis with polyangiitis is a type of vasculitis (or swelling of the blood vessels)that mainly affects the sinuses, nose, trachea (windpipe), lungs, and kidneys.
- Polyarteritis nodosa is characterized by inflammation of small and medium-sized arteries, preventing them from bringing oxygen and food to organs.
- Takayasu arteritis causes inflammation of the aorta (the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body) and its associated branched blood vessels. As a result, the blood vessel walls become thick and impair blood flow, which can cause damage to the heart and other organs of the body over time.
All of our cutting-edge testing and imaging technology is available under one roof at Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell. Here are some of the tests we use to accurately diagnose your condition and develop a plan for your care:
- Lab tests (blood work and urine test)
- CT scans
- Diagnostic joint aspiration (analysis of joint fluid, collected via syringe)
Medication is the primary form of treatment. Through prescriptions and careful monitoring, we work with you to reduce immune responsiveness, control the symptoms of the disease, and help prevent long-term complications that can develop. Patients may be prescribed medicines commonly referred to as immunosuppressive agents, including steroids, disease modifying agents (DMARDs), or biologics (genetically-engineered from human genes). Patients requiring infusions can receive them on-site at our Infusion Center. We also perform therapeutic joint aspirations and injections on an outpatient basis to help relieve pain and pressure.
Physical and occupational therapy also play important roles in treatment. Physical therapists help patients manage arthritis pain and maintain mobility and function. Occupational therapists work with patients to identify challenges they face in daily activities and find ways to adapt and overcome them. Our Center for Outpatient Rehabilitation at Capital Health Medical Center - Hopewell is located at the same campus.