Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a medical condition that is characterized by the persistent pain and swelling of the affected joint. This chronic disease typically affects the feet, wrists and hands, although it can also damage various parts of our body.
RA is a type of autoimmune disease and this condition is defined by the inability of the immune system to differentiate the normal cells from the bad or harmful ones. Under an autoimmune state, our body’s natural defense, which normally fights infection, attacks normal cells of our body, and specifically the cells that line our joints, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis. This condition leads to the swelling, persistent pain and stiffness of the affected joints.
General Information about Rheumatoid Arthritis
While RA is considered a chronic disease, which means that it can last for several years, a patient may experience some lull periods or dormant phases without the typical symptoms of the disease. However, the condition will normally become progressive and can cause serious damage to the joint and lead to functional disability in the long term.
Complications and Risk Factors
There are several risk factors of rheumatoid arthritis. Several researches have shown that women face greater risk of developing the autoimmune disease than men. While the disease may affect men and women of all ages, it presents higher incidence in men and women within the 40-60 age bracket. Medical experts also acknowledge the role of family history in the person’s predisposition to this chronic disease, and you are potential candidate for RA if you have a member of the family who has the disease. Finally, smokers face more risks of developing the disease than non-smokers, and you may have to quit smoking if you want to reduce such risk.
Rheumatoid disease can lead to complicated health conditions and trigger other diseases such as the following:
Carpal tunnel syndrome – This can be triggered if RA affects your joints in your wrists. This inflammation brought about by the chronic condition can squeeze the nerves that are directly linked to your fingers and hands.
Heart ailments – RA can also be linked to blocked and hardened blood vessels. It may also lead to the inflammation of the sac that wraps the heart.
Osteoporosis – This bone disease can be triggered by the medical condition as well as specific medications that are indicated for rheumatoid arthritis. Thus, patients with RA face an increasing risk of bone fracture as well as weakening of the bone structure.
Lung ailments – RA may trigger inflammation and scarring of lung tissue, and such condition can result to persistent shortness of breath by the patient.
Diagnosis of the Disease
It is relatively difficult to diagnose and differentiate the disease during its early stages mainly because most of the typical signs and symptoms are similar to that of other diseases. There is no specific test or diagnostic procedure that will provide us a definitive confirmation of the presence of the disease.
However, there are laboratory procedures and diagnostic examinations that can provide results that are indicative of whether a patient has RA or not. The most common diagnostic tools are blood tests and x-rays. Your doctor will also examine your joints for warmth, redness and swelling. In addition to this, your doctor will also perform specific procedures to test or measure your muscle strength and reflexes.
Treatment of the Disease
There is no cure for this chronic disease. However, there are various treatment modes which patients can use to alleviate the symptoms and mitigate the damaging effects of rheumatoid arthritis. Firstly, there are several medications and drugs that are used to control the typical symptoms of the disease. Physical and occupational therapy may also be considered to protect or limit the damaging effects of the autoimmune disease.
The leading drugs and medications for RA include the following:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – ibuprofen and naproxen
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) – methotrexate, leflunomide, sulfasalazine
Other drugs – rituximab, tocilizumab, abatacept and anakinra
Doctors may also require their patients to see a physical or occupational therapist so that they can establish an exercise program that can help them maintain the flexibility of their joints. Your therapist may also recommend the use of supportive devices to reduce the stress on the affected joints.
In severe cases of RA where damage to the joints is already extensive, your doctor may recommend surgery in order to restore the function of the affected joints. The primary objectives of the surgical procedure are for total joint replacement, joint fusion and tendon repair.
Men and women who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis have found immediate relief from the pain and other complications related to the disease with the use of various natural or all-organic arthritis treatment modes.