In a perfect world, rheumatologists will be recognised beyond their ability to treat arthritis.

“Generally, in the Philippines, rheumatologists have been confused with just arthritis doctors when in fact rheumatic conditions encompass more than a hundred disease entities that deals with the joints, connective tissues and the immune system,” opined Dr Evan Vista, Chief of Rheumatology Section at Ospital ng Makati.

He said that globally, rheumatologists are also recognised as clinical immunologists.

While it is not unheard of when Filipino medical specialists express their disappointment for the lack of understanding about their area of specialty—the fallacy that rheumatologists are simply ‘arthritis doctors’ is quite common in the Philippines.

Thankfully, in the recent years, interest in lesser known rheumatic diseases have grown as various celebrities and personalities open up about their conditions.

Rheumatic diseases gain attention from mainstream media

Fibromyalgia

Last September, international popstar Lady Gaga called off her performance in 'Rock in Rio', telling her fans through Twitter that she was suffering excruciating pain, and had to be rushed to the hospital.

One of the most common misconceptions about fibromyalgia is that people think it is not a real disease. And through her public confession of personal struggle with the disease, Lady Gaga opened a platform for discussing fibromyalgia—that it is not all in the patient’s head.

According to Dr Vista, “Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that is characterised by diffuse, generalised pain, often vague and causing diminished function and productivity among affected individuals. There are no diagnostic tests to determine this condition and rheumatologist rely on a set clinical criteria to affirm the diagnosis.

“The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. It is not considered as an autoimmune disease like many other rheumatic conditions that we treat, and they have postulated the low threshold for pain to be due to an amplified pain response in a patient with a defective nervous system,” add Dr Vista.

Gout

Way back in 2014, 30 Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto told The Guardian that he got his first gout attack while filming his movie entitled Chapter 27, causing delays in the film production.

Dr Vista explains, “Gout is a disabling arthritis when uncontrolled and contributes significantly to a person's productivity, and becomes a socioeconomic burden when magnified on the national and global scale.

“Gout attacks is highly preventable and it is imperative to control this disease condition, to prevent work absences among sufferers and avoid long-term debilitating complications.”

When asked of his suggested preventive guidelines against rheumatic diseases, Dr Vista said to follow the Philippine Rheumatology Association’s guiding principles in treatment and management of various rheumatic diseases as well as the updated combined American and European guidelines.

Strict adherence to goal uric acid levels by continued monitoring and intake of urate-lowering drugs coupled with lifestyle modifications are the key essentials in leading a pain free life among gout sufferers. MIMS

Read more:
Paediatrician Dr Christine Bernal sheds light on rheumatic diseases in children
Little known diseases: What you need to know about Lupus

References:
  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/in-depth/fibromyalgia/art-20048097
  2. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lady-gaga-fibromyalgia_us_59bbe519e4b0edff971b8210
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/feb/01/jared-leto-dallas-buyers-club
  4. http://thepafp.org/website/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/gout_ph_ra2007.pdf