Rheumatic diseases are characterized by inflammation that affects the connecting or supporting structures of the body — most commonly the joints, but also sometimes the tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles. Some rheumatic diseases even affect the organs.
These diseases can ultimately cause loss of function in those body parts.
Rheumatic diseases include arthritis, which literally means “joint inflammation” and itself encompasses more than 100 different disorders. Rheumatic diseases that primarily affect the spine are considered spondyloarthropathies.
In all, rheumatic diseases affect more than 46 million Americans, including 294,000 children, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.