Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system condition, or autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the lining of the joints. It may also affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, and nerves.
Although the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis can come and go, the disease can worsen over time and may never go away. Early and aggressive treatment is key to slowing or stopping the disease.
According to Dr. Ifeyinwa Obiakor, joint inflammation from Rheumatoid Arthritis comes with pain, warmth, and swelling.
She said that the inflammation is typically symmetrical, occurring on both sides of the body at the same time such as the wrists, knees, or hands.
“Other symptoms include joint stiffness, particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity; ongoing fatigue, and low-grade fever.”
The doctor noted that these symptoms typically develop gradually over years, but they can come on rapidly for some people.
Who can get it?
It usually strikes between ages 30-60, but younger and older people can get it. About 1% of the population has the condition and it is two to three times more common in women than in men. You are more likely to get it if you smoke or if you have a relative who has this disease.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Scientists don’t know exactly why people get the disease. Some people may have a genetic risk for it that gets triggered by a particular infection that experts haven’t yet identified.
How it affect the joints
Obiakor revealed that inflammation of the lining of the joints can destroy cartilage and bone, deforming the affected joints. As the condition progresses, joints can become painful and not work as well.
How it affects the rest of the body
Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect organs and other areas of the body other than the jointsThese include the following:
Rheumatoid nodules: firm lumps under the skin and in internal organs.
Sjogren’s syndrome: inflammation and damage of the glands of the eyes and mouth; other parts of the body can also be affected.
Pleuritis: inflammation of the lining of the lungs.
Pericarditis: inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart.
Felty syndrome: not enough white blood cells which is also linked to enlarged spleen.
Vasculitis: blood vessel inflammation, which can hamper blood supply to tissues
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA)
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis is the most common type of arthritis in kids. It causes joint inflammation, stiffness, and damage. However, it can also affect children’s growth. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis is also known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Pregnancy
Surprisingly, rheumatoid arthritis improves in up to 80% of women during pregnancy. It may likely flare up after the baby is born. Why this happens is unclear. You may need to make changes in your medication before you conceive and during pregnancy.
What doctors will check for
Doctor Gabriel Omonaiye told Saturday Sun that because symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may come and go, diagnosing the disease in its early stages can be challenging.
Omonaiye stated that if you have these symptoms, your doctor may order further tests.
Some of these symptoms include morning joint stiffness, swelling/fluid around several joints at the same time, swelling in the wrist, hand, or finger joints.
Others are same joints affected on both sides of your body and firm lumps under the skin also known as rheumatoid nodules.
Blood tests you may get
If your doctor thinks you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, he or she may give you blood tests to check for signs of inflammation in the body.
Other common tests are for rheumatoid factor (RF) and “anti-CCP” (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide), which most people with RA have.
Image tests you may get
X-rays can help diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis and provide a baseline for comparison later as the disease progresses. You may also get an MRI or ultrasound to look for joint damage and inflammation.
Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis
“Although there is no cure, treatment can lower joint inflammation and pain, prevent joint damage, and help keep your joints working. You should start as soon as possible says Dr. Obiakor.”
Your doctor will make a plan based on your particular case, including your age, affected joints, and how severe the disease is. It will include medication and exercise to strengthen muscles around the joints. Some people need surgery.
Medications used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis include drugs that slow or stop the disease and pain relievers. You may need to take more than one type of drug. For instance, you may take one for pain and another to protect your joints from further damage.
Surgery as an option
If you have a lot of joint damage or pain, your doctor may suggest surgery. Joint replacement especially hips and knees are the most common type for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Other types of surgery include arthroscopy (inserting a tube-like instrument into the joint to see and repair damage) and tendon reconstruction.
Some people with Rheumatoid Arthritis get relief from using moist heat, acupuncture, and relaxation. Supplements that have been shown to possibly help the disease are fish oil and borage seed oil.
Check with your doctor before you start supplements as they can cause side effects and may interact with your medications.
Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Although there is no rheumatoid arthritis diet, many people with the disease find that eating or avoiding certain foods helps their symptoms.
Foods high in saturated fats raise inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids which can be gotten from salmon, fatty fishes and walnuts may be helpful.
Some people feel that other foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, white potatoes, peppers, coffee, and dairy worsen symptoms of the disease.
Exercises may help
Regular exercise can help those stiff, painful joints. It also keeps bones and muscles strong. Choose exercises such as gentle stretching, resistance training, and low-impact aerobics.
Use caution with any activity that puts pressure on the joints, like jogging or heavy weight lifting. When you have a flare, take a short break from exercise. If you are not active now, talk to your doctor before you get started.