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Rheumatoid Arthritis – Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prognosis

This type of arthritis causes chronic inflammation of the connective tissues through the body, but especially around the joints where the primary signal is frequently painful, swollen, stiff joints which will finally become deformed.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects about 1 in 100 individuals, is most common between the ages of 40 and 60, and changes three times more women than men. It sometimes runs in families, indicating a genetic factor is at play! RA nearly always affects the same joints on either side of the body.

What Happens?

In rheumatoid arthritis, the joints become stiff and swollen as an effect of inflammation of the synovial membrane, which lines each joint. Slowly, the cartilage covering the ends of the bones is eroded, jointly with the bone underlying the cartilage. The tendons and ligaments, which give the joints support, become distressed and slack, and the joints may become deformed.

How Does Ra Change The Body As A Whole?

Generally rheumatoid arthritis affects several joints. It generally begins first in the small joints of the hands and feet but may develop in any joint. RA generally will be symmetrical, appearing in similar joints on either side of the body. It’s classified as one of the autoimmune disorders, where the body creates antibodies that attack its own tissues.

Tissues, mostly connective tissue made out of collagen, in other parts of the body, like the eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels, may be influenced by inflammation and RA is thus additionally described as a connective tissue disorder.

RA goes a chronic course and typically recurs in episodes lasting for several weeks or months with relatively symptom-free intervals in between. After many years it typically “bums itself out” and becomes quiescent like an extinct volcano.

What Are The Symptoms?

Rheumatoid arthritis usually grows slowly, although very sometimes the beginning may be abrupt and sensational. General symptoms include tiredness, light skin, shortness of breath on exertion and poor appetite. Special symptoms may include:

  • stiff, painful and swollen joints, frequently of the hands, and classically changing the central joint of the fingers so they become spindle shaped
  • classically, the pain and stiffness is worst on awakening and enhances as the day goes on.
  • painless, little lumps (nodules) on regions of pressure like the elbows.

Are There Complications?

  • In time, the bones around the affected joint may lose density and strength as an effect of decreased mobility, becoming increasingly fragile and more susceptible to fracture.
  • The more general symptoms of RA are partially because of anaemia, brought on by a failure of the bone marrow to produce enough new red blood cells.
  • some individuals may also experience inflammation of the eye – iridocyclitis or uveitis.

Symptoms may improve during pregnancy but occasionally flare up again after the arrival.

How Is It Diagnosed?

  • Joint changes in the hands are so ancient as to support the identification. Nevertheless, your physician may arrange for a blood test to assess for the existence of an antibody referred to as rheumatoid factor (RF), which is frequently associated with RA.
  • Blood tests can also be done to quantify the severity of the inflammation.
  • X rays of the affected joints may be required to evaluate the degree of bone and joint damage.

What Is The Treatment?

The objective of treatment is twofold: firstly, to alleviate your symptoms and, second, to reduce further joint damage by stopping inflammation and impeding the advancement of the disorder. Distinct drugs are accessible, and your physician’s recommendation will be contingent on the severity and improvement of your disease, your age and your general well-being.

  • If your symptoms are only mild, your physician may just prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
  • If your symptoms are serious, drugs that slow the disease process may be proposed, like sulphasalazine or chloroquine. Such drugs should restrict irreversible damage to the joints but may need to be taken over a couple of months before their total benefits are felt.
  • If the symptoms continue, your physician may prescribe a drug for example cyclosporin, penicillamine, methotrexate or gold. As these drugs can have serious side effects, your state will be monitored carefully by your physician.
  • Bursitis may grow, in which one or more of the fluid-filled sacs around a joint become inflamed.
  • Swelling that compresses the median nerve in the wrist can result in tingling and pain in the fingers. This is called carpal tunnel syndrome.

As part of the generalized autoimmune disorder affecting connective tissue through the entire body, complications may include:

  • inflammation of the walls of the arteries supplying the fingers and toes may result in Raynaud’s phenomenon, a condition at which fingers and toes become light and distressing on exposure to cold
  • less normally, the spleen and the lymph nodes may become enlarged
  • the membranous sac that surrounds the heart – the pericardium – may also become inflamed (pericarditis)
  • The anaemia that’s usually related to RA may be enhanced by treatment with the hormone erythropoietin.
  • Your physician may recommend that you just use a splint or brace, especially at nighttime, to support a specially debilitating joint and impede the development of deformities.
  • Gentle, regular exercise may help keep your joints mobile and prevent muscle weakness.
  • Physiotherapy may be given to enhance joint mobility and help increase muscle strength.
  • Hydrotherapy and heat or ice treatments may help alleviate pain.
  • If a joint is intensely painful, it may need an injection of a corticosteroid.
  • If the joint becomes seriously damaged, your physician may indicate that you’ve got operation to replace the damaged joint with an artificial one.

What Is The Prognosis?

Many individuals with rheumatoid arthritis can lead a standard life, although lifelong drug treatment may be needed to control the symptoms. About 1 in 10 individuals have some level of impairment, as continued attacks slowly ruin the joints.

There are many family items which can help you to lead the usual life thus ask your physician about them.

Routine blood tests will be needed to track the advancement of the disorder and your reaction to treatment. Sometimes, the attacks slowly cease, and the disorder can be said to have burned itself out. After the age of 50, RA fairly often does so. Yet, some long-term impairment may stay.

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