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Rheumatoid arthritis

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Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most debilitating forms of the arthritis family. Unlike most forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis does not come from wear and tear on the joints but is known as an inflammatory condition that stems from the immune system. It can strike at any age and can lead to degeneration of the joints as well as joint deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis is most common in women between the ages of 20 and 50, and is three times more likely to affect women than men. While there is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, proper treatment can help alleviate symptoms and decrease or even stop the progression of the disease.

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include swelling of the joints, in particular the small joints of the hands and feet, loss of range of motion in affected joints, loss of muscular strength in the muscles attached to the affected joints, low grade fever, fatigue which can become severe during times of flare ups, a feeling of stiffness or aching most noticeably after a period of rest or sedentary activities, malaise, a general sense of feeling ill and slow, and with enough time, deformity of the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is known for involving several joints at one time. It is likely to affect the hands, knees, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, jaw, neck, and feet, and can progress from just a few joints to several or all joints in a relatively quick time frame. Rheumatoid arthritis generally affects tear glands, the lining of the heart and lung, the salivary glands, and even the lungs.
Rheumatoid arthritis
Image: Rheumatoid Arthritis

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS CAUSES

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by confusion of the immune system. Instead of just attacking potential illnesses, the white blood cells also attack something known as the synovium, which is a membrane the body uses to protect and line the joints. By attacking the synovium, the immune system causes damage and can eventually destroy this lining of the joints as well as the joints themselves. As the synovium is attacked, a protein is released in an effort to fight back and this builds up around the joints, causing irreversible damage.

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS RISK FACTOR

Risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis include being female, age, although the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis after the age of 80 declines sharply, inheriting specific genes that create a higher degree of potential, and being exposed to an infection, most likely a bacterial or viral that may trigger the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS DIAGNOSIS

X-rays and MRIs can often help in determining if the patient complaints are symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. X-rays taken over a period of time will often show the progression of the arthritis at a much faster rate than osteoarthritis. Blood tests to determine the presence of an antibody known as the rheumatoid factor can also help in the diagnostic process. This antibody is only developed in patients with a rheumatoid disease, like lupus, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis. Blood tests which determine a patient’s SED rate can also detect abnormal amounts of swelling present in the body.

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS COMPLICATIONS

Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to complications related to severe pain and stiffness, including difficulty dealing with nominal, everyday tasks as well as depression over the loss of life quality. Rheumatoid arthritis also increases a patient’s likelihood of developing osteoarthritis, as the wear and tear is now intensified as well as an effect of taking corticosteroids. Rheumatoid arthritis once meant a destiny confined to a wheelchair, but better treatments now make that only a possibility, not a certainty.
Joint pain
Image: Joint Pain

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS TREATMENT

Medications for rheumatoid arthritis are either aimed at relieving the painful symptoms or are aimed at ceasing the damage. Thus many patients take numerous medications and may have to go through a phase of experimentation overseen by a physician in order to determine the right medication combination for that patient. NSAIDs, corticosteroids, immunosuppressant medication, and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs can all be part of a patient’s daily medication cocktail.


There are also surgical procedures for the right candidate that can alleviate a lot of the pain and immobility caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Joint replacement as well as tightening tendons, loosening others, fusing bones, and removing diseases bone can all be part of a surgical therapy plan. Surgical procedures are painful and should be performed only when the benefits are sure to outweigh the recovery pain and the therapy pain associated with these types of surgical procedures.

Daily exercise, a healthy diet, and controlling weight gain are all essential parts of keeping the pain of rheumatoid arthritis under control. Applying heat and cold as appropriate and maintaining a healthy spiritual or emotional outlook are also good management tools. Rheumatoid arthritis is not easy to live with, but there is great hope as treatment options continue to improve.
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