Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system which normally protects its health by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses mistakenly attacks the joints. this creates inflammation in your joints which thickens the synovium, and can eventually destroy the cartilage and bone within the joint. RA is the second most common form of arthritis in the UK.

It’s not clear what triggers this problem with the immune system, although you’re at an increased risk if:

  • Gender: Both men and women are susceptible to RA, but the disease is far more common in women
  • Age: RA can affect a person at any age, but it typically presents in those between the ages of 40-60.
  • Family History: Those who have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis may have a higher chance of developing the disease.

There also some are several environmental factors such as:

  • Bacteria and viruses
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Insecticides

RA can be tough to diagnose. Symptoms can mimic other illnesses, appear differently in every patient and many will experience spans of no symptoms at all. Here are some rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and hints that they’re due to RA and not some other condition:

  • Joint pain, tenderness, swelling or stiffness for six weeks or longer
  • Morning stiffness for 30 minutes or longer
  • More than one joint is affected
  • Small joints (wrists, certain joints of the hands and feet) are affected
  • The same joints on both sides of the body are affected

There is no single test that shows whether you have RA. However, People will typically feel the effects of RA in their smallest joints first, such as the fingers and toes.

The earliest signs of the disease are:

  • Achy joints
  • Stiffness
  • Formation of nodules
  • Fatigue
  • Unintentional weight loss

rheumatologists use a combination of tests to make an accurate diagnosis. Once a diagnosis has been made, a patient can work with their rheumatologist to create a treatment plan that fits their needs and current stage of RA.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

Most rheumatologists will prescribe two DMARDs simultaneously, as this is likely to provide better initial symptom control and ability to achieve remission, without an increase in toxicity. Because it can take a few weeks to obtain a DMARD response, glucocorticoids (often termed “steroid” drugs) are often used as an additional short-term ‘bridge’ to gain more rapid symptom control.  All people who start steroids should be considered for osteoporosis prophylaxis (drug treatments that prevent steroids from causing thinning of the bones or osteoporosis).

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are available over-the-counter and by prescription. They are used to help ease arthritis pain and inflammation. NSAIDs include such drugs as ibuprofen, ketoprofen and naproxen sodium, among others. For people who have had or are at risk of stomach ulcers, the doctor may prescribe celecoxib, a type of NSAID called a COX-2 inhibitor, which is designed to be safer for the stomach. These medicines can be taken by mouth or applied to the skin (as a patch or cream) directly to a swollen joint.

Regular exercise can help prevent and reverse these effects. Several different kinds of exercise can be beneficial, including range-of-motion exercises to preserve and restore joint motion, exercises to increase strength (isometric, isotonic, and isokinetic exercises), and exercises to increase endurance (walking, swimming, and cycling).

Exercise programs for people with rheumatoid arthritis should be designed by a physical therapist and tailored to the severity of your condition, build, and former activity level. A separate article discusses exercise and arthritis