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Home » Rheumatoid Arthritis : Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)? Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Last Updated: April 16, 2022; Author: Dan Sharp.
Medical Condition Rheumatoid Arthritis Image

Rheumatoid Arthritis refers to a chronic inflammatory disorder, which can affect the joints and even more than just the joints only. In several patients suffering from the health condition, the disease can affect a wide variety of body systems including lungs, eyes, blood vessels, heart, and skin.
Rheumatoid generally occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own body tissues. And the inflammation associated with the disease can damage the body’s other parts also.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The common symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis include:

  • Swollen, or tender joints
  • Fever, fatigue, and appetite loss

Joint stiffness that gets worse in the mornings or after performing an activity
The early stage of the disease tends to affect the smaller joints initially, especially the joints that attach the toes to the feet and fingers to the hands. As the illness progresses the symptoms may spread to the knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, shoulders, and hips.
Around forty percent of the patients with disease experience symptoms that do not even involve the joints. However, the commonly affected areas may include:

  • Eyes
  • Skin
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Salivary glands
  • Kidneys
  • Blood vessels
  • Bone marrow
  • Nerve tissue

The symptoms of the disease may vary in severity and even from person to person. The periods of the increased illness activity often known as flares alternate with the relative remission periods when the pain and swelling disappear or fade.

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When do you need to see a doctor?

If you experience persistent discomfort or swelling in the joints then you gotta see your medical doctor immediately.

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

It is basically an autoimmune disease. Generally, the immune system aids in protecting the body from diseases and infections. In rheumatoid disease, the person’s immune system attacks the healthy tissues present in the joints. However, it can also lead to several medical issues with the lungs, heart, skin, eyes, and nerves.
Though the doctors do not know what begins this process but a genetic component appears likely. Since the genes do not cause the disease but they can make a person more susceptible to react to environmental factors like infections associated with several viruses or bacteria.

Risk Factors involved!

The potential factors that may augment the risk of developing the health condition include:

  • Age: Disease can occur at any age but often begins during middle age.
  • Family History: if you have a family history of the health condition, you are likely to develop the disease.
  • Your Gender: Women are more likely to develop the disease as compared to men.
  • Excess Weight: Overweight people are likely to pose a greater risk of developing the health condition.
  • Smoking: Smoking may also increase the risk of developing the disease.

Complications involved!

The disease also increases the risk of developing

  • Rheumatoid Nodules
  • Osteoporosis
  • Dry mouth and eyes
  • Abnormal body composition
  • Infections
  • Heart issues
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Lymphoma
  • Lung disease

Diagnosis of Arthritis Rheumatoid

The disease can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages as the symptoms might mimic many of the other diseases. No single physical evaluation or blood test can confirm the diagnosis. However, during the physical evaluation, the medical doctor will check the joints for redness, swelling, or warmth. Also, the doctor may verify the muscle strength and reflexes.

  • Blood Tests for the Diagnosis
    People with the disease often experience an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate or C reactive protein level that may signify the presence of an inflammatory process in the body.
  • Imaging Tests for the Diagnosis
    The doctor may recommend the X-rays to facilitate tracking the progression of disease in the joints over time. However, the ultrasound and MRI can help the doctor to judge the severity of the illness.

Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis

There is no accurate cure for the illness but the clinical studies signify the symptoms remission is more likely when the treatment begins.

Medications to Treat the Disease

Here are a few common medications recommended by the doctor based on the severity of the symptoms.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Conventional DMARDs
  • Steroids
  • Biologic Agents
  • Targeted Synthetic DMARDs

Therapy to Treat the Disease

The medical doctor may also refer to physical or occupational therapies to keep the joints flexible. Several assistive devices can also make it easier to avoid stressing the painful joints.

Surgery to Treat the Disease

If the recommended medications fail to prevent the joint damage, the doctor may consider the surgeries as the potential treatment to repair the damaged joints. This may help restore the ability to use the joints and can also diminish the pain while improving functioning.
The surgery treatment may include the following procedures:

  • Synovectomy
  • Tendon Repair
  • Total Joint Replacement
  • Joint Fusion

Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes

Take a few steps to take care of your body and experience the improvement with the below-mentioned self-care measures.

  • Exercise regularly
  • Try to relax
  • Apply heat or cold
  • Connect with other
  • Take control
  • Know your limits
  • Take out time for yourself

What Can You Do?

  • Take note of the symptoms you are experiencing.
  • Information about the frequency and type of symptoms.
  • In case you have a family history of the disease.
  • Current medical issues you have along with this disease.
  • Medications you are consuming and things you experience allergies from.
  • Dietary supplements you are consuming.
    Based on the appropriate evaluation with the combination of several tests, your doctor may be able to diagnose the disease.

Bottom Line!

There is no cure for the disease but the treatment and medications focus on relieving the symptoms. Do not forget to take the medications as per your medical doctor’s recommendations and suggestions.

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