Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a life-long disease and mostly affects the joints in the wrist, hands, feet, spine, and knees. Affected joints tend to become red, swollen and ultimately result in the following:
(difficulty moving, lack of balance and joint deformity)
The immune system is like an army of soldiers - it is the first and last line of defence, protecting the body against harmful germs.
But when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells, it results in the development of certain conditions classified as autoimmune disorders.
In RA, the immune system attacks the internal joint linings.
Certain risk factors make a person more likely to have RA. These include:
RA can occur at any age, but is more common in adults above 60 years.
RA affects women two-to-three times more as compared to men.
People having specific genes have a higher chance of developing RA, further increasing the likelihood when exposed to other risks.
Cigarette smoking increases the risk of developing RA and worsens the existing RA.
Women who have never given birth may be at a greater risk of developing RA.
Children of smoking mothers are at double the risk of developing RA as adults.
Higher body weight increases the risk of RA.
What are the typical symptoms?
Pain or ache in multiple joints
Tenderness and swelling in multiple joints
Stiffness in multiple joints
The same symptoms on both sides of the body (both hands or both knees can be affected)
Before the appearance of main symptoms, a person may have some early warning signs like:
May affect everyday activities, relationships, sex life and productivity at work
A slight fever may occur before any noticeable effects on the joints
A person may lose his/her appetite, which can result in weight loss
Affects a person particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity
Can occur in hands and feet and can result in loss of sensation
RA flare-ups: Symptoms of RA can become worse for brief periods called flare-ups.
Remission: The times when symptoms get better.
RA flare-ups can be hard to predict, but it is possible to reduce the frequency of flare-ups and minimize or prevent long-term damage to the joints with appropriate treatment.
Untreated RA might have alarming consequences. These may include:
Remember, these complications can be avoided when one visits a doctor at the earliest.
Visit a doctor immediately if any of the symptoms of RA are noticed. An early visit to the doctor can help determine the exact cause and enable quicker diagnosis. Early diagnosis of RA is crucial as it can prevent further joint damage and thus, prevent the condition from getting worse.
Diagnosis of RA is challenging. To arrive at the diagnosis, a doctor may ask several questions pertaining to medical history, symptoms, etc. and may prescribe some blood tests and joint scans.
The doctor will check the joints of a person for swelling, tenderness, and range of motion
The doctor will check for certain factors which are responsible for RA
The doctor will conduct a detailed examination of the joint structure
If the family doctor feels a person has RA, he/she will refer the patient to a specialist handling joint diseases, called a Rheumatologist.
Below are few treatment approaches for treating RA. The doctor will choose the best treatment approach depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Right eating, exercise, and good sleeping habits may be beneficial.
The prescribed medicines help relieve pain, prevent or slow down joint damage, lower the disability and enable a person to live well.
Based on the disease severity, a doctor may recommend surgery to reduce pain and fix deformities.