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Learning about Rheumatic Autoimmune Diseases: Deeper Dive for Sjogren's and Lupus Patients

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

This is the second article of the Learning about Rheumatic Autoimmune Diseases series.

This post takes a deeper dive into the world of rheumatic diseases.

Today you are going to learn about common terminology in the medical field that every patient should know. You will also learn which diseases are in the musculoskeletal system along with definitions.

This is a great starting point if you suspect, or your doctor suspects you may have Sjogren's or Lupus.

We want to thank you for sticking with us through the series. If this is your first time visiting the blog, make sure you hop on over to our post that explains who we are and how we plan to help you. Check out the post here.

If you haven't done so already, we recommend reading the first article in the Learning about Rheumatic Autoimmune Diseases series.

You can find a link to that article here:

If you are a returning patient, thanks for sticking with us. We appreciate you and want to continue helping you on your journey.

Let's dive in...

Common Terminology Used in the Health Care System:

Arthritis is a term used for conditions that affect your joints.

Rheumatic diseases are in the arthritic family, and they affect your joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles.

The term Rheumatic disease is often interchangeable with the term Musculoskeletal disease.

These types of diseases are managed by a specialist doctor called a Rheumatologist.

The immune system is a complex organization inside the body that is designed to seek and destroy invaders of the body, including bacteria, viruses and other foreign attackers.

An autoimmune disease is an illness that causes the immune system to attack itself. This means that the immune system does not distinguish between healthy tissues and harmful attackers like bacteria and viruses. As a result, the body sets off a reaction that destroys normal tissues.

There are two types of autoimmune diseases. An organ specific autoimmune disease or systemic autoimmune disease.

Organ-specific autoimmune diseases are those where a particular organ or tissue is preferentially targeted by the patient's immune system. A common example of an organ specific autoimmune disease is type 1 diabetes, as the immune system attacks the endocrine pancreas.

Systemic autoimmune diseases are those where the immune system cells are found in almost any type of cell in the body. As a result, damage can be seen in many different organs and tissues. This means that a patient who has a systemic autoimmune disease can have damage in any system in their body.

The 12 Body Systems:

There are a total of 12 body systems. These include:

  • the skeletal

  • nervous

  • muscular

  • respiratory

  • endocrine

  • immune

  • cardiovascular/circulatory

  • urinary

  • integumentary (hair/skin/nails)

  • reproductive

  • digestive systems

Rheumatic Disease Types:

There are many types of Rheumatic diseases including:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

  • Sjögren’s

  • Lupus

  • Scleroderma

  • Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD)

Disease Definitions:

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Commonly referred to as RA, is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, causing inflammation which in turn results in painful swelling.

RA mainly attacks the joints and it commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. In a joint with RA, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissue.

This tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, difficulty with balance, and deformity. RA is a systemic disease which means it can attack and destroy any organ in the body.


Pronounced “show-grins,” is an systemic inflammatory autoimmune disease, which means your immune system can (or does) attack the entire body.

Sjogren's is typically known for the body attacking primarily moisture-producing glands such as the mouth, nose, eyes and vagina. Symptoms of excessive dryness are often called 'sicca symptoms'.

However it is important to know that due to the systemic nature of the disease, sicca symptoms are not always present, and not always primary. In fact, this disease can attack and destroy any organ in the body. Fatigue and joint pain are common symptoms among Sjogren's patients.


Is a systemic autoimmune disease.

There are four different kinds of Lupus, and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is the most common.

SLE primarily attacks the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.

SLE is related to Sjogren’s syndrome; both diseases have overlap in symptoms, and are sometimes called 'sister diseases'.

The other types of lupus are:

  • Cutaneous lupus, a form of lupus that is limited to the skin.

  • Drug-induced lupus, a lupus-like disease caused by certain prescription drugs.

  • Neonatal lupus, a rare condition that affects infants of women who have lupus.


(sklair-oh-DUR-muh) is a group of rare diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues.

There are several different types of scleroderma each one unique to the area of the body in which it affects.

Skin, fingers and toes, digestive system, heart and lungs are some common areas of the body in which scleroderma attacks the connective tissues.

Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

Commonly referred to as MCTD, is often diagnosed when a patient is showing symptoms of several possible rheumatic diseases, but no one clear diagnosis can be made.

MCTD is a term that doctors use to describe a set of symptoms that overlap with several musculoskeletal diseases, and is also referred to as an overlap disorder.


Rheumatic autoimmune diseases are complex illnesses that can take years to be diagnosed.

They are diagnosed by a specialist called a rheumatologist.

A person diagnosed with (or on the road to diagnosis) needs to manage their health with the help of a multidisciplinary team. This can be difficult and exhausting.

We plan to support you with coping tips for dealing with your autoimmune disease.

We will be working hard on creating content that can provide help for accompanying mental illness and chronic pain.

Knowledge is Power.

By reading this post and learning more about your illness and your body, you are becoming an informed client.

Informed clients can work alongside their medical team, be involved in the care and management of the illness, rather than sitting on the sidelines waiting for a doctor to 'fix' them.

Next week we are going to finish off this series Learning About Rheumatic Autoimmune Diseases by reading through 10 The Things I Wish I Knew On My Road To Diagnosis With Sjogren's and Lupus.

By reading this post and diving further into the Phoenix Soul Warrior Website and Blog, you can become knowledgeable in all things rheumatic illness.

Want to connect with us? Hop over to our online support group for Sjogren's and Lupus patients, we'd love to hear from you.

Wishing you Health and Happiness,

Heather (& Marc)

P.S. If you would like to receive email updates from us that includes new posts, more resources and information, updates on our children's book sign up for our Newsletter below.



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