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Diseases & Conditions

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritisCausesMedicationsPreventionSymptomsTreatment

What is Rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune inflammatory disease that can affect multiple tissues and organs, but mostly attacks synvoid joints. It may cause pain, stiffness, swelling or loss of function of bone joints in sufferers.

Causes of Rheumatoid arthritis

Researchers have not been able to identify the exact cause for the occurrence of rheumatoid arthritis. It is characterized by abnormal activity of the body’s immune system due to various factors, which may include hereditary factors, hormones, and perhaps even viral or bacterial infection.

Medication for Rheumatoid arthritis

Disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), non steriod anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and biological response modifiers may be given to treat Rheumatoid arthritis. DMARDs interfere with the immune process that encourages inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. They can either slow the process or actually stop it completely. Examples of these are methotrexate (Folex PFS, Rheumatrex), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), leflunomide (Arava), gold salts such as auranofin (Ridaura), D-penicillamine, azathioprine (Imuran), Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), and cyclosporine (Neoral).

Biological response modifiers act as substances that are normally produced in the body and help in blocking other natural substances which form a part of the body’s immune response. These modifiers help in blocking the process that leads to joint Rheumatoid arthritis inflammation and damage. Examples are Etanercept (Enbrel), Adalimumab (Humira), Abatacept (Orencia). Glucocorticosteroids are powerful steroid agents that rapidly clock immune responses and inflammation. Examples include Prednisone (Meticorten, Orasone, Deltasone, betamethasone (Celestone) and prednisolone (Medrol).

NSAIDs reduce pain and swelling but are ineffective in stopping joint damage are not insufficient in treating rheumatoid arthritis. This group includes drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn), ketoprofen (Oruvail) etc.

Self Care at Home

  • Protect your joints by practicing occupational therapy and range of motion of motion exercises.
  • Make lifestyle changes and find new methods to carry out activities.

Prevention of Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis cannot be prevented but progression of the disease can be stopped or slowed by early detection and aggressive treatment.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis can have multiple symptoms affecting bone joints.

  • It most commonly affects the joints present in the hand such as wrist joints, elbows, knuckles. It also affects the ankles, feet and knees.
  • Larger joints present in hips, jaws and shoulders may also be affected
  • Neck vertebrae may be affected in those people who have had Rheumatoid arthritis for several years.

Usual symptoms include

  • Joint stiffness: The range of motion of the joint may be reduced and this symptom is more pronounced in the morning, just after waking up and improves as the day progresses.
  • Inflammation: There is usually tenderness, redness and warmth which characterize Rheumatoid arthritis inflammation.
  • Swelling: The surrounding area around the joint can be puffy and swollen.
  • Nodules: In Rheumatoid arthritis, nodules or hard bumps appear near or on the affected joint, often in the elbow area. They are more prominent on or near the joint that protrudes when it is flexed.
  • Pain: Rheumatoid arthritis pain can have several sources. It may arise out of joint or tissue inflammation or if the joint has been exercised too hard.

Treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis continues to remain an incurable condition in spite of scientific advancements in the past few decades. Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis comprises of two components

  • control of inflammation and prevention of joint disability or damage
  • pain relief

A combination of medication and non drug approaches are recommended for effective relief of Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Non Drug Approaches

Physical therapy significantly helps to decrease joint stiffness and improve the range of motion, reduce pain and increase muscle strength. Hydrotherapy which involves relaxing or exercising in water helps in pain relief and muscle relaxation. Relaxation therapy can also help in pain relief and muscle tension relief. Both cold and hot treatments can give pain relief and reduce Rheumatoid arthritis inflammation. Cold ice packs can be applied or heat can be applied by microwaves, ultrasound, moist compresses and warm wax.

Occupational therapy teaches you ways to reduce stress on joints and how to use your body efficiently. The idea behind this is to decrease the tension on joints.

Prosorba column, a medical device that removes antibodies related to rheumatoid arthritis from the blood, is used in extreme cases. Joint replacement operations and reconstructive surgery can also provide some good results.