Arthritis and Autoimmune Disease Treatment

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GW Hospital offers advanced rheumatologic care in the heart of Washington, D.C. Rheumatology is a subspecialty of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of arthritis, autoimmune and connective tissue diseases. These include osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic back pain, tendinitis, and lupus.

Autoimmune and rheumatic diseases affect the joints, bones and muscles causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformity. They can sometimes cause inflammation in other internal organs such as the kidneys, lungs, blood vessels and brain. Treatment of these complex multi-system diseases requires physicians trained in Rheumatology.

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Conditions and Diseases Treated

Common conditions and diseases treated by rheumatologists at GW Hospital include:

  • Gout – A common, painful form of arthritis. It causes swollen, red, hot and stiff joints. It often attacks your big toe first, but can also attack ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows.
  • Lupus – An autoimmune disease whereby your immune system attacks healthy cells and tissue by mistake, which can damage your joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain.
  • Myositis – Any condition in which inflammation is in the muscles used to move your body, Myositis often is revealed through pain, swelling and muscle weakness. 
  • Osteoarthritis – Also called degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in your joints wears down, causing your bones to rub together. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – A type of arthritis that occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks the tissues that line your joints, causing pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints.
  • Scleroderma – When your body creates too much collagen due to an immune system issue, your skin can thicken and tighten, leading to damaging effects such as scars on organs. 
  • Vasculitis – Caused by your immune system mistakenly attacking your blood vessels, your blood vessels become inflamed.  

Autoimmune conditions occur when the immune system sends inflammation to areas of the body when it is not needed causing damage/symptoms. These diseases can also affect the eyes, skin, nervous system, and internal organs. Rheumatologists treat joint disease similar to orthopedists but do not perform surgeries.

When to Seek Treatment

It is common for people to experience muscle and joint pain every so often, but you may need to seek treatment from a healthcare professional when the pain does not subside as you would expect. Your primary care physician is typically the first stop, but if they feel there's an underlying rheumatic condition, they may refer you to a rheumatologist for further evaluation and treatment.