Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is defined as an autoimmune disease, causing chronic inflammation of the joints and the tissue around the joints, along with other organs in the body.
An autoimmune disease is an illness that occurs when the body tissues are mistakenly attacked by its own immune system. Since rheumatoid arthritis can affect multiple organs of the body, it is also referred to as a systemic illness or a rheumatoid disease.
Gender, lifestyle, genetic make-up and infection are also considered as possible causes of rheumatoid arthritis.
Incidence and Prevalence
In the US alone, RA tends to affect more than 2 million people. The incidence of the disease has been found to be three times more common in women as compared to men.
Though the disease can begin at any age, research indicates higher rate in the age group of 40-60 years old. Studies also reflect a possible genetic factor as multiple members in a single family have often been diagnosed with the disease.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is widely recognized as one of the most debilitating forms of arthritis, causing joints to ache, throb, and eventually become deformed. Though it can affect almost any joint of the body, hands and feet are the most commonly affected areas.
Here we list the most common symptoms experienced before and during the condition of rheumatoid arthritis:
· Fatigue and weakness
· Stiffness, especially in the mornings
· Limited range of motion
· Eye-burning or tingling
· Flu-like symptoms
· Rheumatoid nodules or lumps under the skin
· Muscle pain
· General malaise
· Simultaneous pain in three or more joints
· Loss of appetite
Diagnosis and Treatment
Specialists use a number of diagnostic tools to detect the presence of rheumatoid arthritis. Here we list the most important and frequently used ones:
· Joint X-rays
· Rheumatoid factor test
· Blood tests
· Evaluation of C-reactive protein
· Synovial fluid analysis
Treatment and Other Remedies
There are different lines of treatment advised by the health care professionals prescribed according to the patient’s conditions. Here list the main categories:
i) Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Prescribed for reducing pain and swelling. Examples are aspirin, advil (ibuprofen), naprosyn, relafen, indocid (indomethacin) , voltaren (voltarol).
ii) COX-2 inhibitors: celecoxib, etoricoxib
iii) Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS): These work by slowing the pace of attacks by the immune system. Examples include methotrexate (MTX), imuran, arava and myochrisine.
iv) Analgesics: These are effective in reducing pain. Examples include propoxyphene, mepeidine and morphine.
v) Corticosteroids: These are prescribed for a very strong swelling. Most commonly used is prednisone.
vi) Biologics: These work by blocking specific hormones that are involved in the inflammatory process.
Exercises help you to reduce pain and maintain healthy weight. The main three types include:
i) Range of motion exercises to reduce stiffness
ii) Strengthening exercises to increase muscle strength
iii) Gentle aerobic exercises to strengthen the heart