Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms, diagnosis and treatments

Rhematoid-arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is among the most common diseases that can cause joint impairment and disability, especially in older adults than in young adults and children. In medical terms, RA is defined as a progressive chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease with varying symptoms, showing mild to severe inflammation of the joints that can develop pain, dryness and joint impairment along with joint deformity and disability. In addition to its physical effects, it can also lead to mental illnesses, such as depression due to its permanent changes in activity level and lifestyle. The most common cause of RA is genetic-related; however, the genetic risk factor is not fully responsible for the disease and environmental factors have been said to cause Rheumatoid Arthritis. Although several studies have looked at treatments for RA, there have been no definitive results. The most commonly suggested treatment approaches for Rheumatoid Arthritis are rest or relaxation and other general treatments include intra-articular injection, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and surgery. These treatments aim to reduce pressure on the joint.

A report of statista.com shows that 0.92% of the adult population in India suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Roughly, about 20-40 new cases are reported per lakh population every year, and the disease occurs more frequently in females. Women are prone to RA, most commonly between age of 30 and 60. Men often experience RA later in life when compared to women. Having a family member with RA increases the chances for a person to develop RA. However, it is also said that most people with RA have no family history of the disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

In the beginning stages, persons with RA may not find any usual symptoms such as redness or swelling in the joints, but they may observe tenderness and acute pain. These are some of the symptoms and clues to RA:

  • Joint pain, swelling, tenderness, or stiffness for more than six weeks
  • Stiffness in the joints in the morning immediately after waking up
  • One or more joints are affected
  • Hands, knees and feet joints are commonly affected
  • The same joints on both sides of the body are affected accompanied by pain. Some people experience tiredness, loss of appetite and a mild fever. The symptoms and effects of RA may fluctuate. A period of high disease activity, which means an increase in swelling and other symptoms is called a flare. A flare can last for several days or even months.

Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis  

There is no one particular test that is in use to diagnose RA. In case of diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis by a physician, the person will be advised to consult a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is a specialised doctor who treats diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. The Rheumatologist may:

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  • Examine the person’s family medical history
  • Conduct a physical examination
  • Perform X-rays, ultrasound scans or magnetic resonance images to look at the joints and blood tests to look for proteins and cells that cause swelling

Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment aims to:

  • Lessen or cease inflammation(swelling) and achieve remission (removal of disease symptoms)
  • Alleviate possible symptoms
  • Stop joint and organ damage and decrease long term complications
  • Enhance body function and overall well-being. Treatments taken as soon as possible is key to reducing the symptoms and effects of RA.

Treatments and medications prescribed to manage RA have two major functions: give pain relief and slow/ stop disease progression. The treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis should begin after the diagnosis of RA and initial evaluations.

In addition to allopathic treatments and medicines, a person suffering from RA can reach out to alternative treatment methods, or complementary therapies, for managing the RA symptoms. There are other methods as well, such as acupuncture or acupressure, massage, and relaxation techniques. A hot and cold therapy, topical treatments, and nutritional supplements may also be beneficial.

Ways to Self-manage Rheumatoid Arthritis

Self-­management means being very proactive in taking care of oneself. These self-care activities include:

  • Monitoring for symptoms and following the medication routine
  • Closely taking care of emotional health
  • Consuming healthy and foods that are anti-inflammatory
  • Getting at least 30 minutes of mild exercise as suggested by the physician each day
  • Considering therapies to relieve pain such as massage
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

While there is no definitive or permanent cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis, it is possible to achieve remission (absence of disease activity) both on and off RA medications. Along with a rheumatologist, it is affirmative to develop a treatment procedure that will work toward the goal of remission.

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