Rheumatoid Arthritis-Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
8 Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder affecting the joints.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own body tissue, the joint linings causing a painful swelling. While in most cases it is only the joints that get affected, it can also affect the heart, lungs, skin and even blood vessels. The condition varies from osteoarthritis, there is no wear and tear that causes bone damage, but it is the chronic inflammation of the joints that causes the same, and even cause bone erosion and joint inflammation.
RA happens when the immune system attacking the joints results in the sinovium thickening. This causes eventual erosion of the bones and the ligaments and tendons holding the joints together weaken and stretch, quickening the damage as well, to the point of making the joints deformed.
The most common symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Tender, warm, swollen joints
- Joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings
- Fatigue, fever and weight loss
- Limping and loss of range of motion
- Rheumatoid nodules and joint deformity
The early signs of the disease is normally seen in the smaller joints of the finger and the toes before progressing to the bigger and more major joints. As the disease progresses, it spreads to the wrists, ankles, elbows, knees, etc. Most often than not they affect both sides of the body simultaneously.
Since patients also experience symptoms that do not necessarily have to do with bones and include other parts of the body, Rheumatoid Arthritis is understood to be a systemic disease. It is also categorized by periods of flares, when the disease is active, and periods of remission when the symptoms are significantly less intense.
The factors that increase the chances of RA include:
- Gender: Women are three times more likely to develop RA than men
- Family history: A history of RA in the immediate family can also increase the chance of the disease in a person.
- Obesity: people who are overweight are at a higher risk of RA because the weight of a person can put undue pressure on the joints.
It is hard to diagnose RA in its early stages because its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases and the lack of a single test to confirm this makes it harder. The tests to diagnose RA include foremost a physical check of the joints for warmth and swelling. Some of the other tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis include blood tests for certain markers and x-rays as well. The final diagnosis is made only with the findings of all of these.
There is no cure for RA yet, but based on the severity of the symptoms and progression of the disease, there are several ways to treat it. The first is by medications: medicines of different kinds might be prescribed. The most common include: non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Corticosteroids, disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and more recently biologics. Each of these class of medicines are for a a different level of progression of the disease. It is very important to talk to your doctor and take only medicines that are prescribed by them.
Other methods of management and treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis include physical and occupational therapy and surgery. Therapy is prescribed to help ease up on the joints and to keep them flexible, helping manage the disease. Surgery is normally suggested to repair worn out joints and help restory ability to them when the joints are too damaged or eroded.
There are continual studies that are about curing, treating, and failing that, making life easier for people with RA. Meanwhile, support groups exist to allow people who have arthritis to help manage living with the disease.
The Center for Rheumatology at Yashoda Hospitals is a state-of-the-art facility with the finest, latest treatments, technologies and services. It is backed by specialists from the well equipped Orthopaedic Department and supported by the physiotherapy department as well.