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Rheumatoid Arthritis

April 30, 2024
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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Are you worried about your joint pain? Do you know which type of arthritis it is? Let’s connect with us. This article will explore a complete guide on the symptoms, causes, and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammation caused by the body’s immune system itself, also known as autoimmune inflammatory disease. The joints of the ankle, knee, fingers, toe, and hands are the leading body parts affected by this disease. Variations in genes and some other environmental factors may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Age, gender, and obesity are the risk factors for this disease.

A report by the World Health Organization indicates that 70% of rheumatoid arthritis patients are women, and of them, almost 55% are older than 55 years.

By controlling these factors, such as obesity and getting exercise regularly with proper medications, rheumatoid arthritis could be treated.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

It’s an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in joints of the body. Autoimmune disease means that the body’s immune system unintentionally attacks the body’s cells or tissues and damages or kills them, causing severe, painful swelling in the form of inflammation in that part of the body.

 In rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune inflammation occurs in joints such as hands, ankles, knees, or wrists. During this condition, the joint’s lining is inflamed, damaging the joint tissues, leading to chronic pain and sometimes even instability of the joint bones.  We should be aware that rheumatoid arthritis can affect other body tissues, which can cause problems in other organs such as the eyes, heart, lungs, skin, and blood vessels.

Stages of rheumatoid arthritis

Here are four stages at which this autoimmune disease could lie:

Stage one is known as synovitis: it’s the early stage of this disease in which the immune system starts attacking the joint, which leads to swelling and inflammation in the synovial membrane. People at that stage experience mild symptoms such as pain and stiffness in the joints of their fingers, hands, ankles, and knees.

The second stage of rheumatoid arthritis is called pannus. A condition in which the inflammation of joints continues and thickens the cartilage of the joints, which helps the joints move freely. As a result, this cartilage thinning leads to worse joint pain and stiffness. This stage may also lead to joint damage, as without cartilage, the bones of the joints begin to erode.

The third stage of this disease is fibrous ankylosis. ankylosis is when bones of a joint start fusing together, and as in this condition, the damaged area fuses with the connective fibrous tissue; it can cause the immobility of the affected joint or even the affected joint to bend down.

The fourth and final stage of this disease is bony ankylosis. A condition in which the bones of the joints fuse together instead of connective tissues. In this stage, pain goes away, but the movement ability of the joint is completely lost. A patient at this stage can’t do any tasks or hobbies.

Causes of rheumatoid arthritis

When germs or viruses try to infect a healthy person, their immune system responds by fighting back. But the immune system starts to secrete a variety of chemicals that assault the body’s own cells in every autoimmune disease. A tissue lining known as synovium also exists in joints. In order to facilitate easy and smooth joint movement, the synovium secretes a specific liquid. The immune system of patients with rheumatoid arthritis unfortunately secretes inflammatory substances that begin targeting the synovial lining tissue. Because of this, synovium thickens, which causes the joints to enlarge and become red, which in turn causes discomfort and immobility.

Why does rheumatoid arthritis exactly happens is still unknown. According to researchers, it is caused by hormonal, genetic or environmental factors.

Here, a question arises: is that disease genetic?

Scientists have revealed that many genes are potential risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis. Some variations in the genes or non-genetic factors, such as sex and pollutant irritants, increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. 

If a person is born with a variation in the leukocyte antigen gene, they will have a greater chance of exhibiting rheumatoid arthritis.

Risk factor which causes rheumatoid arteritis

Some factors may lead a person to become a rheumatoid arthritis patient. 

  • It has been seen that this disease is more common in women than men, so your sex matters.
  • The second is your age: rheumatoid arthritis usually begins in middle age. 
  • Some activities suchas if you are a smoker, cigarette smoking increases the risk factor of rheumatoid arthritis in you, as it also leads to the severity of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • A smoker does not only enhance the risk factor for the development of rheumatoid arthritis in itself. Research indicates that a child whose mother smoked had a double chance of rheumatoid arthritis in middle age.
  • Obesity: if your weight is higher than your BMI, you may experience a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • Family background: if you have any RA patients in your family, especially any sibling or parent, then the chance of exhibiting rheumatoid arthritis in you is increased.

Here, we can evaluate a decreasing factor for rheumatoid arthritis disease: breastfeeding! Research reveals that women have a lower risk factor of developing RA if they feed their infants.

Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

At the early stage of rheumatoid arthritis, a patient usually does not feel any symptoms, but at a later stage, they exhibit the following signs and symptoms: 

  • Joint pain, tenderness, and swelling
  • Joint becomes stiffened, usually in the morning or after doing any physical activity
  • Fatigue and fever

At first, rheumatoid arthritis affects just small joints, usually toes and fingers, but as it worsens, the symptoms spread to the ankle, knees, elbows, hips and shoulders. 40% of people with rheumatoid arthritis exhibit these symptoms but in other areas of the body rather than joints such as eyes, skin, lungs, heart, kidney, blood vessels and even the nerve tissues.

Different people experience these symptoms differently. In some cases, these show up and then disappear; it is known as remission. If these symptoms appear and last longer, then the disease condition is called a flare.

Complications of rheumatoid arthritis

Severe rheumatoid arthritis may lead to various complications, such as; 

Osteoporosis:

Rheumatoid arthritis may lead to osteoporosis, a condition in which joint bone fractures.

Rheumatoid nodules:

Nodules are tissue bumps formed around the pressure points of the elbow. Sometimes, these bumps may form around the heart or lungs. 

Sjogren’s disorder:

 A condition in which the amount of moisture in the eyes and mouth is increased. People with rheumatoid arthritis have a greater risk of this disorder. 

Body composition becomes abnormal in people with even a normal BMI, if they have rheumatoid arthritis, may have a higher fat proportion to lean mass.

Heart problems:

Rheumatoid arthritis may increase the risk of artery blockage and sac inflammation, leading to heart problems.

Lung disease:

Rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk of inflammation of the lung tissues, which can cause breathing problems.

Carpel tunnel syndrome:

It’s a condition in which rheumatoid arthritis inflammation compresses the nerves of the hands and fingers and collectively affects the wrists. 

Infections:

Rheumatoid arthritis itself or medication used to cure it may lead to a variety of infections, such as influenza.

Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis

A physician diagnoses a patient with rheumatoid arthritis in three stages: physical examination, medical history review, and additional testing. 

Your doctor will ask some basic questions, such as joint symptoms, severity of symptoms, and whether any family member is experiencing this disease now or before.

In the second stage, he will look for joint tenderness, swelling, movement, and bumps under the skin.

Finally, he will ask you for some blood tests, such as blood protein tests, which may include erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein, which are diagnostic markers for rheumatoid arthritis. Other tests may include an MRI and an X-ray imaging.

Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis can be effectively treated by medications, therapy, surgery or self-management strategies. You can say lifestyle changes may treat your rheumatoid arthritis.

Medications may include:

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, COX-2 inhibitors, and corticosteroids, which include cortisone, help relieve pain. Some other medications may also be included, such as biologic agents or conventional DMARDs, as suggested by your doctor. 

Your doctor may refer you to proper therapy treatment. And if medication and therapy do not have any effects, doctors may recommend surgery on that joint. 

Surgery may include synovectomy, in which surgeons remove the inflamed lining of the affected joint. Other surgeries, such as tendon repair, joint fusion, and total joint replacement, may also be conducted.

Self-management

You can manage rheumatoid arthritis by adopting some preventive measures or some activities, such as:

  • Remain physically active:

Experts recommend that an adult should remain active for about 30 minutes per day or 150 minutes per week. Regular physical activities can lead to a decrease in the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, depression or diabetes.

  • Self-management class:

If you are experiencing rheumatoid arthritis, you should manage your confidence by gaining knowledge about the control of that disease and learning how to live well with it.

  • Stop smoking:

Smoking can lead to other medical issues. If you are a smoker, it’s also difficult to stay physically active, so you may not be able to manage your rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Maintain your weight:

Obesity can cause many other diseases side by side with rheumatoid arthritis, so it’s the foremost factor to control to remain healthy.

Final thoughts

It is essential to comprehend rheumatoid arthritis in order to recognize the condition early and treat it effectively. This page offers a thorough introduction to its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and available treatments, covering everything from its autoimmune roots to its many stages and possible problems. In addition to medical treatments like medication, therapy, and surgery, lifestyle modifications including physical activity, self-management techniques, and quitting smoking are essential for treating rheumatoid arthritis. People can better manage the difficulties this illness presents by being proactive and knowledgeable, which can enhance their quality of life and general wellbeing.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

What treatment option is most effective for rheumatoid arthritis?
Maintain a balance between your RA activity and rest, getting more sleep when it’s active and more exercise when it’s not. Fatigue, discomfort, and active joint inflammation can all be reduced with rest.

What foods are bad for rheumatoid arthritis?

Sugary foods, such as pastries, candies, and sweetened beverages, can make your body release inflammatory messengers called cytokines. The same is true for refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta, which your body quickly digests into simple sugars.

About the author

Dr. Madilyn Adams is a PhD in molecular medicine from Harvard University and has been working as a medical blogger for seven years.

References

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648#:~:text=Rheumatoid%20arthritis%20can%20cause%20pain,more%20than%20just%20your%20joints.

https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/types/rheumatoid-arthritis.html

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms/#:~:text=The%20main%20symptoms%20of%20rheumatoid,over%20a%20number%20of%20days.

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Mellisa Hoskins
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