What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as RA, is an auto-immune disorder that attacks the synovial joints, and often times other tissues and organs within the body. The disease causes extreme pain that is caused by the destruction of joint cartilage. It usually affects women, however men can also have the disease, and it typically will start between 40 to 50 years of age. It is thought that this disease affects about 1% of the current world population, and there is no known hereditary markers, though it is hypothesized that it may be able to be passed down.
However, anyone at any age can have it, even children where it is called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Children, and teenagers have been diagnosed in the past. If gone untreated RA can cause loss in motion, function, and permanent disability. There is no known cause of rheumatoid arthritis, nor any cure. All diagnosis should be done by a rheumatologist, a specialist in diseases of the joints, muscles, and bone. This specialist also will cover all long-term care that might be needed, depending upon the severity and progression of the disease. Diagnosis is determined by a patients symptoms, as well as X-rays, and blood work.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, specifically in the early stages, can be difficult to diagnose. Though most suffers will complain about joint pain, it isn’t an uncommon symptom for a man or woman in the age range. This means that it can often be misdiagnosed as osteoarthritis. However, there are other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis that a rheumatologist might look for such as inflammation of the affected joints that persists for more than an hour, or stiffness that persists without relief. Since osteoarthritis is non-inflammatory it will often rule it out, and thus point the doctor towards RA. Other symptoms might include the rheumatoid nodule, which is tissue that has swollen yet firm. They are commonly found over boney areas such as an elbow, fingertip, and toes. They can also occur internally, usually in the lungs, however this is less common. 25% of all rheumatoid arthritis patients will develop a nodule, and since it rarely occurs outside of RA, it is often used in diagnosis. Some other side effects of the disease may also be present, though they are much rarer, and typically only found in patients that have gone untreated, for a long period. These symptoms can range from anemia, to myocardial infraction, and even carpal tunnel syndrome. Most of these are side effects caused by rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and some just symptoms.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment and Treatment For Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are no cures for the disease, however there are rheumatoid arthritis treatment options available. In the past few years scientists have come a long way in order to help sufferers manage the pain, and to help slow down the progression of the disease. Some are pharmaceuticals, though there are also those that use diet in conjunction with modern medicine to treat the symptoms. The goal of a rheumatologist should be to treat the current symptoms, and to stop or slow the deterioration of the affected area. Pain relievers, and cortisone are often prescribed to manage the patients pain. However they do not halt the progression, and can’t be used by itself as a whole rheumatoid arthritis treatment option. Typically an RA approved drug will be prescribed, and these drugs are called Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS), and biologics. They help to reduce how quickly rheumatoid arthritis deteriorates the bone, and cartilage. In some patient cases they have shown to be able to put RA into remission, though it is not always the case. Starting this rheumatoid arthritis treatment as early as possible can be a great benefit to anyone suffering from RA. Non-medical therapies will usually consist of weight loss, exercise, and a diet free of inflammatory foods. If someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis is overweight it has shown to reduce pain by slimming down. Exercises, like yoga or swimming, are very beneficial to sufferers, as it helps to loosen the joints, increases mobility, and can reduce pain. Eating a diet free of inflammatory foods, such as gluten or dairy, has shown some improvement for some, however there is little evidence either way to its effectiveness.