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Rheumatology is a branch of medicine, a subspecialty of internal medicine, which developed as a well-recognized specialty in the 1920s and is devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, and prophylaxis of patients with rheumatic diseases. These disorders are often associated with serious limitation of motion, stiffness, pain, and other symptoms. Although they are often considered to be afflicting older patients, they’re becoming increasingly common among younger people, too.
What are the reasons for this? How many people are actually seeking medical assistance and what is the current situation of rheumatic diseases in our country?
We asked Dr. Iltchova these and more questions. She is part of the team at Medical Center Hera where innovative treatment methods and high-tech equipment are applied in order to achieve the best results possible. Dr. Iltchova is a specialist rheumatologist with over 20 years’ experience, having attended a number of conferences, seminars, and training courses on rheumatology.
Which are the most common rheumatic diseases that your patients face and what are the reasons for them?
Dr. Iltchova: Rheumatic diseases target the musculoskeletal system, i.e. the human locomotor system, and they can be autoimmune, i.e. autoaggression towards the body’s own tissues, as well as degenerative (typically caused by age-related changes in the joints). The reasons often remain unknown, but when they are identified, the cause is mainly infectious agents – bacteria, fungi, viruses. In some instances, environmental factors can be the cause of musculoskeletal disorders. Diet and lifestyle are also contributing factors.
Which are the characteristic symptoms that signal to patients that they need to see a rheumatologist immediately? Is it hard to recognize such diseases ?
Dr. Iltchova: As with all diseases, rheumatic disorders can be instantly diagnosed in some patients, while it may take time and observation in others before the symptoms develop and the diagnosis is clear. Pain, swelling, morning stiffness, muscle weakness, fatigue, fever, weight loss, skin changes, certain laboratory abnormalities, and other symptoms can be considered alarming and indicate that a visit to a rheumatologist is necessary.
What are the possibilities of modern medicine for the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases?
Dr. Iltchova: As laboratory tests and highly specialized imaging diagnostic procedures become available, we can say that the possibilities for diagnosis have significantly expanded.
Do diet and lifestyle affect rheumatic disorders?
Dr. Iltchova:They can affect some disorders like gout and osteoporosis.
Are there rheumatic diseases that are passed down from parents?
Dr. Iltchova:Predisposition to the rheumatic disorders rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, osteoarthritis is inherited.
Do children suffer from rheumatic disorders?
Dr. Iltchova:Yes, but they are in the pediatrics scope due to the specifics of the juvenile body.
Is there a large number of patients with rheumatic disorders in Bulgaria and what can be done to decrease it?
Dr. Iltchova:There is no accurate statistic in Bulgaria, but it’s not a small number.
Is it true thatpatients with rheumatic disorders are getting younger? If so, why ?
Dr. Iltchova:Young people suffer from rheumatic disorders but they are recognized more often due to the uptick in diagnostic thinking.
What would you recommend to people in order to prevent such disorders?
Dr. Iltchova:Specialists and general practitioners, as well as patients themselves, shouldn’t hesitate to recommend or seek a consultation with a rheumatologist.