Dear Readers in one of our previous articles we took an overview of Autoimmune Disorder, which happens when the intricate defense mechanism of our body goes against our own body and mistakenly starts attacking the body’s healthy cells and tissues. In this article, we will be discussing a particular type of autoimmune disorder that is Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that means that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake and causes inflammation in the affected parts of the prospects body. Rheumatoid arthritis attacks the joints, usually many joints at once. It commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees.
In a joint with Rheumatoid arthritis, the lining of the joint gets inflammed, causing damage to joint tissue. This tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, unsteadiness (lack of balance), and deformity (misshapenness). RA can also affect other tissues throughout the body and cause problems in organs such as the eyes, hearts and lungs.
WHO Data on Rheumatoid Arthritis
According to World Health Organisation(WHO) data, 18 million people worldwide were living with rheumatoid arthritis in 2019, and 13 million people with rheumatoid arthritis experience severity levels from moderate or severe that could benefit from rehabilitation.
Also, while rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease that affects multiple body systems, the joints of hands, wrists, feet, ankles, knees, shoulders and elbows are most often affected and about 70% of people living with rheumatoid arthritis are women, and 55% among them are of the age 55 years or more.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Following are the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, which we often overlook as being very common but its early detection can support in early treatment at a small level:
Pain and Aching
Rheumatoid Arthritis often manifests through persistent pain or aching, typically affecting more than one joint. This discomfort is a key indicator of the inflammatory nature of the condition.
Individuals with RA frequently experience stiffness in multiple joints. This stiffness can impede movement and is often more pronounced in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
Tenderness and Swelling
RA is characterised by tenderness and swelling in affected joints. This inflammation is a result of the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy joint tissues, causing discomfort and visible changes.
A distinctive feature of RA is the symmetry of symptoms. If joints on both sides of the body, such as hands or knees, display similar signs simultaneously, it raises suspicion of rheumatoid arthritis.
Unexplained weight loss can be associated with RA. The chronic inflammation and metabolic changes linked to the condition may contribute to a decrease in body weight.
Fever is another symptom that may accompany RA. The body’s immune response to the inflammation can result in an elevated temperature, indicating an active inflammatory process.
Fatigue and Tiredness
RA often brings about persistent fatigue and tiredness, impacting daily activities. This fatigue is not solely due to physical symptoms but is also influenced by the overall toll RA takes on the body.
Generalized weakness is a common symptom of RA, affecting the overall strength and endurance of individuals. This can further contribute to the challenges posed by the condition in daily life.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosed?
RA is diagnosed by reviewing symptoms, conducting a physical examination, and doing X-rays and lab tests. It’s best to diagnose RA early, within 6 months of the onset of symptoms, so that people with the disease can begin treatment to slow or stop disease progression (for example, damage to joints). Diagnosis and effective treatments, particularly treatment to suppress or control inflammation, can help reduce the damaging effects of RA.
Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
There is no particular cure available for Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is not curable. Early Diagnosis and its management can reduce symptoms, slow down the disease and prevent disability. Management of rheumatoid arthritis often involves different health workers, who contribute to a rehabilitative strategy made to a person’s needs and preferences.
Therapeutic approaches help to improve and maintain joint mobility and muscle strength, to reduce and cope with pain, and to increase exercise capacity and the ability to perform daily activities.
Following is the list of a few medicines which are usually prescribed by a doctor and are advised by WHO to reduce inflammation, pain and swelling:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
- biological agents.
How can we manage Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Experts recommend that ideally, adults be moderately physically active for 150 minutes per week, like walking, swimming, or biking 30 minutes a day for five days a week. You can break these 30 minutes into three separate ten-minute sessions during the day. Regular physical activity can also reduce the risk of developing other chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression.
Physical Activity Programs
Participation in physical activity programs can help reduce pain and disability related to RA and improve mood and the ability to move. Classes take place at local, parks, and community centers. These classes can help people with RA feel better.S
Participants with arthritis and gain confidence in learning how to control their symptoms, how to live well with arthritis, and how arthritis affects their lives. Learn more about the proven self-management education programs that the CDC recommends.
Stop Smoking & Maintain a Healthy Weight
Cigarette smoking makes the disease worse and can cause other medical problems. Smoking can also make it more difficult to stay physically active, which is an important part of managing RA. Obesity can cause numerous problems for people with RA and so it’s important to maintain a healthy weight.