Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term, progressive, and disabling autoimmune disease. It causes inflammation, swelling and pain in and around the joints and other body organs. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the hands and feet initially, but can occur in any joint. It usually affects the same joints on both sides of the body. This article explains what the symptoms are and how this can be treated.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint pain, redness and swelling, and a feeling of being unwell. It is an autoimmune and systemic disease, which means it affects the entire body. RA occurs when the immune system attacks healthy tissue, mistaking it for sick tissue. Inflammation will then develop in the tissue. It can occur in any joint, lung, heart and even eyes.
What are the symptoms of RA?
The symptoms are mainly:
- pain, swelling and stiffness in more than one joint
- symmetrical involvement of the joints
- joint deformities
- problems with walking
- bad mood
- motor disability
- weight loss
Symptoms are present and sometimes they are gone. During remission, diseases may disappear completely or may be mild. However, they can be very painful during an exacerbation. A person with this condition also feels unwell and pain in the joints when the weather changes.
It is not known why the disease arises. Doctors say it has a genetic component.
The antibodies of the immune system attack the synovium in the joint, causing inflammation and pain. Inflammation causes the membrane to thicken. If this condition is left untreated, it can attack the cartilage that cushions the bone. The tendons and ligaments that hold the joint also weaken. As a result, the joint is deformed.
The risk factors include:
- age over 60
- genetic factors
- no pregnancy
Rheumatoid arthritis can also contribute to diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and anemia.
Due to the existing situation that limits him, the sick person may suffer from depression.
Rheumatoid arthritis – diagnosis
Early symptoms of the disease may be confused with other conditions, however, early diagnosis can slow down severe symptoms. Your doctor will interview your symptoms and how long they’ve been around for. He will also carry out tests, mainly checking if the joints are swollen and painful and if they have deformed.
Your doctor may also order a blood test to check your overall health and whether there is inflammation. He may also order an X-ray or MRI of the joints.
Other diseases giving rise to similar concerns:
- psoriatic arthritis
How to Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?
If a person receives a diagnosis of RA, their doctor may refer them to a rheumatologist who can advise on treatment options. Currently, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis and treatment is only symptomatic. It relies on
- reduce inflammation in the joints (anti-inflammatory drugs)
- pain relief (painkillers)
Drugs used in treatment are painkillers (NSAIDs or stronger), anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, anti-rheumatic drugs.
The rehabilitation allowed the joints to “stay away” and improves the grip of the hand if there are changes there.
Surgery can help when medications and physical therapy fail to help. During the operation, the damaged joint is repaired. The surgical procedure includes:
Arthroplasty – In the event of a total joint replacement, the surgeon removes the damaged parts and inserts a metal and plastic prosthesis or an artificial joint.
Tendon repair – If tendons have been loosened or broken around a joint, surgery can help restore them.
Synovectomy – this involves the removal of the synovium if it is inflamed and causes pain.
Arthrodesis – The surgeon joins a bone or joint to reduce pain and stabilize the joint.
How can you help yourself?
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you can also reduce the illnesses yourself. You can do this by:
Rest – when an exacerbation occurs, a person should rest as long as possible. Excessive swollen and painful joints can make symptoms worse.
Exercise – During remission, when symptoms are mild, it’s a good idea to exercise regularly to improve your overall health and joint mobility, and to strengthen your muscles. Swimming is a good exercise.
Diet – A varied diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables can help you feel better and maintain a healthy weight.
Wraps – apply warm or cold compresses to aching joints. You can take a hot bath or put a pond on an electric cushion.
Cold treatment can relieve pain and reduce muscle spasms.
Complementary therapies – Massage can be one way to relieve the pain associated with RA. You may also find it helpful:
- dietary supplements, for example fish oil