Rheumatoid Arthritis - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Prevention

Rheumatoid Arthritis - A Painful Joints' Condition

Dr.Haresh H Manglani profile Authored by Dr.Haresh H Manglani on 18 Feb 2014 - 13:17.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder which causes chronic painful inflammation of the lining of the joints (small or large), which eventually leads to joint deformity and bone erosion. It occurs when the immune system of the body develops a reaction to the cells of the person’s own body and sets of a cascade of inflammation and joint destruction. However, it may affect other parts of the body including the skin, blood vessels and eyes. Although anyone can be a victim of RA, it is more common in women, than in men, mostly occuring in those above the age of 40 years. 

 IIt  It is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. When your immune system mistakenly attacks the         body's tissues, it results in painful inflammatory response particularly in joints causing joint de de deformity. 

A person suffering from RA, commonly presents with a diverse range of symptoms, which may vary in severity. Some common symptoms are:

  • Tender (Painful) joints
     
  • Limited motion
     
  • Severe swelling and pain
     
  • Stiffness in joints – specially in the morning
     
  • Fever
     
  • Reddening of joints and increased warmth over the joints
     
  • Significant weight loss
     
  • Fatigue
     
  • Bumps of tissues under skin
     
  • Joint deformity
     
  • Misplacement of joints
     
  • Pain in same joints on both sides of your body

Some rare symptoms include:

  • Hoarseness
     
  • Shortness of breath
     
  • Chest pain
     
  • Heart attack
     
  • Dry eyes
     
  • Muscle pain

Diagnosis of RA has been often tricky in its early stages. Although, there is no one blood test or physical finding to confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may perform the following tests:
 

  • Physical exam : To check swelling, redness, warmth on joints and reflexes and muscle strength.
     
  • Blood tests : To assess elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) due to swelling and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies,  C reactive Protein, Anti Nuclear Antibody and ASO Titre.
     
  • X-rays : It provides an image which can be examined for progression of the disease.

Alt Although anyone can develop RA, few factors may increase your risk. These factors include:

  • Being women
     
  • Older age between  40 to 60 years
     
  • Family history of  RA
     

Complications :

Prolonged RA can increase the risk of developing several complications, such as:

  • Fragile bones and fractures
     
  • Compression of nerves in wrist, hand and fingers
     
  • Hardening and blockage in arteries
     
  • Inflammation of heart covering
     
  • Inflammation and scarring of the lung tissues

Rheumatorid Arthritis

 

There is no permanent cure for RA, however, current available treatments can reduce symptoms of disease and prevent progression of the disease. Commonly available treatment approaches include, medication, surgery and therapy.

Medication :

Your doctor may prescribe any of the following suitable medication to relieve symptoms:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) : Relieves pain and reduces inflammation.
     
  • Steroids : These medications reduce inflammation and pain and prevent joint damage.
     
  • Antirheumatic drugs : Slow the progression of the disease and prevent permanent damage to the joints.
     
  • Immuno-suppressants : These drugs act on immune system, which controls rheumatoid arthritis and its progression.
     
  • TNF-alpha inhibitors : It is a natural inflammatory substance produced by the trunk of your body which may subdue pain, morning stiffness and tender or swollen joints.
     

Therapy :

Your doctor may recommend a therapist who can help you in keeping your joints flexible with proper exercising. Using assistive devices helps easier joint movement and avoids stress on the painful joints.
 

Surgery:

When medications and other therapies fail to encounter symptoms and progression of the disease, your doctor may recommend a surgery to repair damaged joints and avoid further progression. Recommended surgical procedures are:

  • Total joint replacement – It is a procedure to remove the damaged portion of your joints and place a prosthesis made of metal and plastic.
     
  • Tendon repair – It is a procedure to repair tendons around joints.
     
  • Joint fusion - It is a procedure of fusing joints to stabilize joints.

As such there are no preventive measures against RA, but disease progression can be prevented by the following means :

  • Regular exercise
  • Applying heat and cold on joints
  • Taking rest

 

If you are experiencing any such symptoms and have questions to ask, you can reach out to our Ask the Doctor service at DesiMD,  at absolutely free of cost.

 

*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.