Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune chronic inflammatory disorder that typically affects the joints of your hands and feet. The symptoms generally surface after 40 years of age and are mostly prevalent among women. However, the condition can affect children as young as 16 years of age and is known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
Generally, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling which ultimately results in bone erosion and joint deformity. Although, no proper treatment exists at present to treat rheumatoid arthritis, doctors usually focus on controlling its symptoms and combat joint pain and damage.
Dr Syamasis Bandyopadhyay from Apollo Gleneagles, Kolkata says, ‘Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the immune system of a person’s body (a system that is supposed to protect the body from foreign bodies) fails to recognise the body’s own cells as harmless and attacks them. In this case, it does not recognise the cells of the synovial membranes as its own and thus, launches a defensive action against them. This in turn leads to swelling and pain in the joints, discomfort and general debility.’
Are you aware of these 12 causes of swollen joints?
Although rheumatoid arthritis primarily targets the joints, it can affect other body parts as well. The key sign and symptoms of you may experience, if you are suffering from this condition are –
Read about 6 warning signs differentiating arthritis from usual joint pain.
The diagnosis of RA based on the symptoms. There are no specific diagnostic tests to detect rheumatoid arthritis as the early signs and symptoms often mimic other joint diseases. However, in some people these laboratory tests show positive results thereby aiding the diagnosis of RA. These include –
Rheumatoid factor (RF) test: This blood test measures the blood levels of rheumatoid antibody. Here are top 6 diseases that can trigger joint pain.
Synovial fluid analysis: It involves a group of tests that examine synovial fluid, fluid present between the joints.
MRI scan: It is animaging test that uses magnetic waves and thus, aids in the diagnosis of the bone and joint structure.
Other blood tests: In some cases, complete blood count, anti-CCP antibody, C-reactive protein and ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) tests are also recommended.
X-rays and CT scan: In this, radiations are used to diagnose inflammation in the joints and thus, confirm rheumatoid arthritis. Read about CT scans: Top 10 facts you should know.
Also read -- Is your joint pain due to arthritis? Find out with these 7 diagnostic tests.
There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis. But with the help of oral medications, you can effectively relieve the symptoms and prevent its progression. The commonly prescribed medications to treat rheumatoid arthritis include –
Painkillers and steroids: They are used to treat the symptoms of RA such as pain and swelling of joints and reduce inflammation.
DMARDs (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs): These help suppress the underlying inflammatory disease. T
Biologic drugs: They are the newest and most advanced treatment options so far that work by targeting inflammatory proteins. Read about medicines for arthritis – use, side-effects, interactions and precautions.
Additionally, in some cases, reversing rheumatoid arthritis could be possible through proper nutrition, yoga and pranayama.
Here are 5 things you must know before you start exercising with arthritis.
The health complications of RA depend upon the part of the body affected. The common problems that might occur, if RA is left untreated include –
- Spinal injury
- Damage of the lung tissue
- Inflammation of heart tissue leading to congestive heart failure
- Increased risk of arterial blockage
Here’s 8 ways to prevent blockage in the heart.
Although RA cannot be prevented, you can lower your risk of being affected by the condition by
- Avoiding tobacco or cigarette smoking
- Regular check-ups of joints and bones
- Leading an active lifestyle (with regular exercise)
- Eating a balanced and healthy diet
- Lower your salt intake
- Avoid stress (especially after 50)
Read about Rheumatoid Arthritis: Your guide to living with the disease.
The content is verified by Dr Syamasis Bandyopadhyay,
MD Rheumatology, Apollo Gleneagles, Kolkata.