Rheumatoid arthritis is a severe inflammatory disorder which has the capability to damage more than just the joints. It has been observed that the same disorder damaged a number of body systems such as eyes, lungs, heart and more.
The functionality of this disorder is very strange because our own immune system erroneously attacks our body tissues. From the history of this disease, it is known to damage the lining of our joints, causing extreme pain. Ultimately, bone erosion or in some extreme cases, joint deformity may occur.
Another damaging sign is that the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis may as well damage other body parts.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Causes & Risk factors
Synovium is something that is used to surround our joints. In rheumatoid arthritis, our own immune system attacks the synovium. What happens next is that it causes an inflammation, resulting in the thickness of synovium. It has the capability to damage the cartilage and even the bone. Also, there are no known causes of Rheumatoid arthritis but the chances are higher if you are a female or if you have a family member with this disease.
There are several risk factors that trigger onset of rheumatoid arthritis. These include:
- Being exposed to specific type of bacteria, especially those linked with periodontal disease.
- Excessive smoking
- Obesity, unnatural weight gain
- Injury of some sort such as s fracture, bone damage and joint dislocation etc.
- RA could happen to anyone at any age but it is especially more prevalent in people aging between 40 to 60.
- Exposure to asbestos or silica is a known risk factor for causing rheumatoid arthritis. Even the worked and laborers exposed to dust from the collapse of any building are at great risk of RA. [i]
The complications of RA include causing the victim to develop other complications such as:
Osteoporosis: It is known to enhance your chances of getting Osteoporosis. It is a condition in which the bones of the victim are weakened and are more likely to be fractured.
Infections: It is not only the disease itself but added with the medications that altogether affect the immune system. As a result, the weakened immune system makes our body more prone to several infections.
Abnormal body composition: It has been observed that the proportion of fat in rheumatoid arthritis patients is considerably high. This does not necessarily mean obesity because the patients have a normal body mass index (BMI) but still a higher proportion of fat in them.
Diagnosis and Treatment
As compared to other diseases, RA is significantly harder to diagnose due to some factors. This is true for its earlier stages because the symptoms that patients show are very similar to several other diseases. Add to that, there is no such thing like a single blood test to confirm the presence of rheumatoid arthritis. However, if at a later stage you visit a doctor, they are more likely to check your joints’ strength, swelling around joints and strength of your muscles. [ii]
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate of the RA victims is almost always found to be high. They may also show signs of presence of a C-reactive protein. Both these processes indicate that there is an ongoing inflammatory process in the victim’s body. Common blood tests are required to look for any signs that RA might have. These most commonly include a check for anti-CCP antibodies in the victim. [iii]
In some cases, doctors may opt to recommend X-ray in order to track the progression of RA in your joints. You may have to undergo several X-rays just to show how much rheumatoid arthritis has been spread in your joints. If the X-rays do not give clear enough information, the next step is to stick to MRI and ultrasounds.
Other tests may be recommended by the doctor such as C-reactive protein test and erythrocyte sedimentation rate tests etc.
Though there is no guaranteed treatment for RA, however there are treatments that help improve the condition of the victim. The main purpose of the treatments is to control the pain and try to reduce the inflammatory response. In most of the cases, this is remission and as a result of decreasing the inflammation, joint and organ damage can be prevented in the long term. There are 4 types of treatments at present:
- Oral medications
- Home remedies
- Changes in diet
Several types of medications for RA are found. While some are just for reducing the pain in the joints, others are more targeted towards reducing the flares and control the possible damage to the victim’s joints. Acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids are most commonly prescribed by the doctors.
Doctors may consider prescribing disease-modifying-antirheumatic drugs, depending upon the patient’s case. The functionality of such drugs is interesting and effective because rather than blocking the entire immune system, they merely control the inflammation. [iv]
In order to reduce the inflammation, doctors may recommend prednisone and other Corticosteroid drugs. They not only reduce the inflammation but also reduces the joint pains.
Surgery is an option when medications do not seem to work. Consult your doctor to see if it would be a good idea to heal damaged joints with surgery. Not only you will be able to use that joint again, but it will also considerably reduce the amount of pain. [v]Surgeries may involve tendon repair or joint fusion, depending upon the severity of the case. However, if nothing works, last option would be to go for a total knee replacement.
Doctors always recommend sticking to home remedies first, exercising regularly to strengthen your muscles and joints. However, it is wise to consult a doctor before you make an exercise plan and start slow. Walk is a good option to begin with. Besides that, yoga, soft aerobics and activities such as swimming are great options too.