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Glossary - Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases

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ankylosing spondylitis - a disease that affects the spine, causing the bones of the spine to grow together.

arthritis - inflammation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling, and sometimes change in structure.

arthrogram - an x-ray to view bone structures following an injection of a contrast fluid into a joint area. When the fluid leaks into an area that it does not belong, disease or injury may be considered, as a leak would provide evidence of a tear, opening, or blockage.

arthroscopy - a minimally-invasive diagnostic and treatment procedure used for conditions of a joint. This procedure uses a small, lighted, optic tube (arthroscope) which is inserted into the joint through a small incision in the joint. Images of the inside of the joint are projected onto a screen; used to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joint; to detect bone diseases and tumors; to determine the cause of bone pain and inflammation.


bursa - a sac filled with fluid located between a bone and a tendon or muscle.

bursitis - repeated small stresses and overuse that cause the bursa to swell and become irritated.


carpal tunnel syndrome - a condition in which the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, a narrow confined space. Since the median nerve provides sensory and motor functions to the thumb and three middle fingers, many symptoms may result.

cartilage - a type of tissue that covers the surface of a bone at a joint. Cartilage helps reduce the friction of movement within a joint.

computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

congenital - present at birth.



electromyogram (EMG) - a test to evaluate nerve and muscle function.

erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) - a measurement of how quickly red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube. When swelling and inflammation are present, the blood's proteins clump together and become heavier than normal. Thus, when measured, they fall and settle faster at the bottom of the test tube. Generally, the faster the blood cells fall, the more severe the inflammation.


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fibromyalgia (Also called fibrositis.) - a chronic, widespread pain in muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints throughout the body.


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gout - a result of a defect in body chemistry (such as uric acid in the joint fluid), this painful condition most often attacks small joints, especially the big toe. It can usually be controlled with medication and changes in diet.



infectious arthritis - an infection in the joint fluid and tissues.

inflammation - a normal reaction to injury or disease, which results in swelling, pain, and stiffness.


joint - where the ends of two or more bones meet.

juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) - a form of arthritis in children ages 16 or younger that causes inflammation and stiffness of joints for more than six weeks. Unlike adult rheumatoid arthritis, which is chronic and lasts a lifetime, children often outgrow juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. However, the disease can affect bone development in the growing child.



lateral epicondylitis (Also known as tennis elbow.) - pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm.

ligaments - a white, shiny, flexible band of fibrous tissue that binds joints together and connects various bones and cartilage.


magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

medial epicondylitis (Also known as golfer's elbow, baseball elbow, suitcase elbow, or forehand tennis elbow.) - pain caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm.

musculoskeletal system - the complex system involving the body's muscles and skeleton, and including the joints, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.

myelogram - involves the injection of a dye or contrast material into the spinal canal; a specific x-ray study that also allows careful evaluation of the spinal canal and nerve roots.


nodule - bump.


orthopaedic surgeon (Also called an orthopaedist.) - a physician who diagnoses, treats, manages the rehabilitation process, and provides prevention protocols for patients who suffer from injury or disease in any of the components of the musculoskeletal system.

orthopaedic surgery (Also called orthopaedics.) - the medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention of injuries and diseases of the body's musculoskeletal system.

osteoarthritis - a condition caused by wear and tear that causes inflammation of the joint, causing swelling, pain, and stiffness.

osteoporosis - a condition that develops when bone is no longer replaced as quickly as it is removed.

overuse conditions - injuries due to minor trauma involving soft-tissue injuries - injuries that affect the bone, muscles, ligaments, and/or tendons.


pauciarticular - a form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that affects four or less joints.

pericarditis - inflamed sac around the heart.

pleurisy - inflamed membranes around the lungs.

polyarticular - a form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that affects five or more joints.

psoriatic arthritis - a form of arthritis associated with psoriasis, a skin and nail disease.

purines - components of certain foods that metabolize into uric acid in the body.



radionuclide bone scan - a nuclear imaging technique that uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the patient's bloodstream to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity within the bone.

reactive arthritis (Also called Reiter's syndrome.) - a type of arthritis that occurs as a reaction to an infection.

rheumatoid arthritis - an inflammatory disease that involves the lining of the joint (synovium). The inflammation often affects the joints of the hands and the feet and tends to occur equally on both sides of the body.


scleroderma - a very serious disease of the body's connective tissue that causes thickening and hardening of the skin.

soft tissues - the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the musculoskeletal system.

spondylitis - inflammation of the spine.

synovial fluid - a clear, sticky fluid that is released by the synovial membrane and acts as a lubricant for joints and tendons.

synovial membrane - a tissue that lines and seals the joint.

systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis - a form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that affects joints and sometimes internal organs.

systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) - a very serious, chronic, autoimmune disorder characterized by periodic episodes of inflammation of and damage to the joints, tendons, other connective tissues, and organs, including the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, kidneys, and skin.


tendon - the tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones.

tendonitis - an inflammation in a tendon or the tendon covering.


ultrasound - a diagnostic technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs.


vasculitis - inflamed blood vessels.



x-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.



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