Rheumatoid Arthritis

The definition of arthritis is the inflammation of a joint, which causes pain, swelling, redness, and warmth within the joint itself. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition of arthritis that occurs in joints on both sides of the body, such as both knees, both wrists, both hands, etc. This helps to distinguish rhermaoid arthritis from other kinds of arthritis. With rheumatoid arthritis, other parts of the body can be affected as well such as the eyes, skin, blood, heart, or the nerves.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The basic symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:

  • Stiffness, particularly in the morning or after sitting in one position for long periods
  • Joint swelling and pain
  • Fatigue

People are affected differently by rheumatoid arthritis. Some people may develop the disease very quickly, while others may have it develop on a gradual basis over a period of years, and some people will have the disease for a short period of time, and then suffer no symptoms at all, which is called a remission.

Who Suffers From Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Only about one percent of Americans ever contract rheumatoid arthritis. It is classified as an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system of the body attacks its own healthy cells, thinking that they are invaders. It is roughly two to three times more common in women than it is in men, however the symptoms in men are more severe. The onset of the disease is usually in middle age, but older people and children can sometimes contract the disease as well.

What Is The Cause Of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

There is no known cause of rheumatoid arthritis, although it is thought to stem from a combination of hormonal influences along with genetic and environmental factors. There is something with the disease that triggers the immune system to attack normal healthy cells in the joints, and sometimes in other organs. Some have theorized that a virus or bacteria may somehow affect the immune system causing the attack on the joints and other parts of the body. Some have also pointed out that smoking may be a causative factor as well.

Detailed research has failed to connect specific genetic roles that are linked to the disease, but there does seem to be genetic or inherited connections that increase an individual’s chances of getting the disease.

How Is The Human Body Affected By The Disease?

As soon as the immune system is triggered to attack the cells of the body, the immune cells migrate into the joints and the tissue that lines the joints. Once there, the cells make inflammatory substances, causing irritation, and the wearing down of the cartilage, which cushions the ends of the bones in the joint. Swelling and pain is the result, and as the cartilage is worn down, the space between the bones narrow, and eventually you have bone on bone, as the cartilage is worn away. Then fluid enters into the area, causing swelling, and damage to the bone may result. The bone joint becomes very painful, difficult to move and bear weight, and mobility is affected.

What Is The Process For Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis?

There are a combination of symptoms that are used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Stiffness in the joint in the morning
  • The symmetry of painful joints on both sides of the body, especially the hands
  • The results of X-rays
  • Bumps and nodules under the skin, called rheumatoid nodules
  • Blood tests

Most of the patients who have rheumatoid arthritis, have the antibody rheumatoid factor (RF) in their blood, but not all of them. This factor can be present with people who do not have the disease, so therefore the diagnosis is based upon several factors that have to do with joint problems as well as the results from various tests.

The Cylic Citruline antibody test is a newer, and more specific blood test for rheumatoid arthritis. The fact that the anti-CCP antibodies is present in the blood gives credibility that a more aggressive type of the disease is present.

Also a mild form of anemia may be present in a patient who has rheumatoid arthritis and tests can pinpoint whether this is a factor or not. Also some people may have an elevated or positive antinuclear antibody test, which would indicate that they have an autoimmune disease. The test cannot pinpoint which autoimmune disease, but together with other tests, rheumatoid arthritis can be singled out.

What Is The Treatment For Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Treatment basically includes medication, exercise, rest, and surgery to correct any damage that has been done to the joint. Factors to be considered are age, medical history, overall health of the individual, and the extent of the damage or severity of the disease.

What Are The Medications For Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Medications are available to reduce the joint pain, the swelling, and inflammation. Some of the drugs will prevent or slow down the disease progression.

Medications that give relief to the patient because of the swelling, joint pain, and stiffness are:

  • Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen
  • Pain relievers that are applied topically to the area
  • Corticosteroids, such as Prednisone
  • Pain relievers that are narcotics

In addition there are strong drugs that are labeled as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. These operate by suppressing or blocking the attack by the immune system on the joints. Included are:

  • Methotrexate, Imuran, and Cytoxan (Immune suppression drugs)
  • Plaquenil (Also used in treating malaria)
  • Biologic treatments such as Actemra, Cimzia, Simponi, and Rituxan
  • Additional drugs such as Axulfidine and Arava

Rest and Exercise Are Important

A balance between rest and exercise is important. During flareups, it is important to just rest. When the inflammation subsides, exercise is important to keep things flexible.

Although there is not a cure for rheumatoid arthritis, early detection and treatment is important in helping to prevent total disability of the patient.

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