Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder which occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your body tissues.

We assume that rheumatoid arthritis affects only joints, but it can damage a wide variety of organs including skin, heart, eyes, lungs and blood vessels. It is surprising to know that there are more than 100 different types of arthritis. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Causes

The lining which surrounds your joints is called synovium. When your immune system attacks the synovium, then RA occurs.

Due to this, the synovium thickens and results in inflammation. This eventually destroys your cartilage and bone within the joint.

The joint loses its shape and alignment because the tendons and ligaments that hold the joint get stretched or weaken.

A genetic component may also contribute to RA but other than that the actual process where RA starts is unclear. Certain viral or bacterial infections may also trigger RA.

Treatment

The primary goals of the treatment are to improve your quality of life by reducing the severity of pain and by stopping the further damage to the joints. Your doctor would recommend a combination of treatment methods for best results.

Drugs

Your doctor will prescribe analgesics to manage the pain and reduce the inflammation near the joints.

(NSAIDS) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to reduce your joint pain and inflammation.

Your doctor will prescribe certain creams namely menthol or capsaicin that help in blocking the transmission of pain signals from your joint.

Your doctor may prescribe disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or corticosteroids that help in suppressing your immune system.

Symptoms

Due to RA, your range of motion of the affected joint decreases. The joints would be painful, stiff and swelled. In severe cases, you may experience redness of the skin around the joint.

You may not feel like eating as you may lose appetite. Your day may be tiresome and lethargic. You may experience fever, and you may also get anemic.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of RA starts with your doctor performing a physical examination. During the examination, your doctor will check for fluid around the joints (pit edema), warmth or redness near the joints, and the range of motion near the joints.

To determine what kind of arthritis you have, your doctor may extract and analyze the levels of inflammation in your joint fluids and blood.

To look at the bones and cartilage, your doctor may order imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI, and CT scans. By this, your doctor can also rule out the other possible causes such as bone spurs.

Surgery

If there is no benefit from the medications, your doctor would recommend a surgical replacement of your knee.

In the case of severe arthritis in your fingers or wrists, your doctor may perform a joint fusion. In this procedure, the ends of your bones are locked together until they heal and become one.

Physical Therapy (Physiotherapy)

Physical therapy is recommended to strengthen the muscles and to increase your range of motion near the joint.

If you have RA you may develop certain complications such as:

  • Lymphoma (cancer of the immune system)
  • Lung disease
  • Osteoporosis (bone thinning disease)
  • Rheumatoid nodules
  • Dry mouth and eyes
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Abnormal body composition

The most common factors that increase your risk of developing RA are:

  • Gender : being women keeps you at an increased risk for developing RA

  • Age : RA most commonly develops at the age between 40 to 60 years

  • Obesity : overweight makes you develop RA due to the increased pressure on the limbs

  • Smoking : cigarette smoke increases your risk of developing RA and also increases the severity of RA