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Landmarks in the study of rheumatology

From experiments with steroids, to placebos, and genome-wide studies, we take a look back at over two centuries of rheumatology studies. Rheumatology involves the study of any disorders of the joints, muscles, and ligaments – including such debilitating conditions as rheumatism and arthritis. These disorders are some of the major causes of morbidity and disability, affecting more than 350 million people world-wide. The term ‘rheumatism’ is relatively new however – first coming into use in the seventeenth century.

“The rheumatism is a common name for many aches and pains, which have yet got no peculiar appellation, though owing to very many different causes.”
— William Heberden (1710-1801); Commentaries on the History and Cure of Disease (1802)

William Heberden, in many respects, summarized the state of rheumatic disease classification in 1802 with the statement above. At that time, only gout was clearly distinguished from the many types of aches and pains. Today, we have moved on significantly in our understanding, and rheumatology is seen an incredibly important medical discipline. Despite this, it is still one that is often overlooked.

With this in mind, and to mark the publication of Landmark Papers in Rheumatology, the editors have chosen fourteen of the most important papers from the book. These seminal works, highlighted in the interactive timeline below, demonstrate how our understanding of the causes and treatment of rheumatic disease have developed over time. Chapter One: Epidemiology and Genetics, is freely accessible until 31 July 2016.

Featured Image Credit: ‘Image from the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary’, published in Russia, 1890-1907, uploaded by Double-M. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

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