Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of the most debilitating forms of arthritis and affects the small joints of the hands and feet. It often starts in middle age and progresses significantly in old age. Being an autoimmune disorder, it also attacks lungs, skin, heart etc. Rheumatoid Arthritis is the second most common form of arthritis and affects about 0.7% of the Indian population, an incidence that is much higher in comparison with other developing countries. Also, women are three times more susceptible to this condition than men.
WHAT CAUSES RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS?
Autoimmunity is a condition where the body’s defense mechanism treats its own body tissues as foreign and starts acting against them. In the case of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the synovial membrane that lines the joint cavity is treated as an antigen or foreign body, resulting in joint inflammation. The exact cause of this condition is not known, however, there are some risk factors that aggravate it.
- Genetics: Certain genes may increase the risk of developing this disease
- Environmental: Exposure to cigarette smoke, insecticides, air pollution can enhance the risk
- Infection: Some bacterial or viral infections can enhance the risk.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Different patients may present diverse symptoms, which include
Painful joints and stiffness, especially in the morning or after prolonged rest.
- Rheumatoid nodule formation under the skin near the joints, such as elbow, heel & knuckle.
- Weak bones, rendering the body at high risk of fractures.
- Poor appetite and loss of body weight.
- Symmetrical joint pain/swelling, e.g. symptoms occurring together in elbows, knees & ankles.
- Progressing inflammation from smaller joints to larger joints.
- Joint pain sustains for more than an hour after activity, with occasional flare up.
- Inflammation of lungs causing shortness of breath.
- Inflammation of lining around the heart causing chest pain.
HOW CAN I GET IT DIAGNOSED?
Your rheumatologist may get your family history & physically examine your condition. Since no one test can diagnosis Rheumatoid Arthritis, you may be asked to get a blood test for identifying specific antibodies. To notice joint damage, an X-ray or an MRI may also be suggested.
HOW TO MANAGE RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS?
Early treatment can limit the disease from progressing further. Medication along with self-management can also relieve the condition better
- Medication: There are two types of medication prescribed by doctors to manage this condition. One type of drug reduces the inflammation, while the other suppresses the autoimmunity and stops the disease from progressing further.
- Rest: Relax your joints between activities by taking occasional breaks. Make sure not to stress your joints for too long.
- Exercise: Practice appropriate exercises to ease the pain. Consult your doctor for the same.
- Physical therapy: Use hot compression to loosen the stiff joints or cold compression to lessen the inflammation.
- Reduce weight if you are overweight to take that extra pressure off your lower joints.
- Use assistive devices to make your life easy. Understand where you need help and what works best for you before choosing a device. A cane or a walker can be helpful to enable stress-free mobility. Braces and splints can help reduce stress on your joints.Devices to decrease pressure on your joints can be used in your kitchen, bedroom or bathrooms among others.
VIEW PAIN RELIEF PRODUCTS AND DAILY LIVING AIDS FOR RA. Click here
HOW TO PREVENT IT?
Preventing Rheumatoid Arthritis may not be completely practical, however diligent treatment at an early stage can help ease the symptoms and curb further progression.
- Quit smoking if you do.
- Reduce your weight.
- Practice muscle strengthening exercises, but take regular breaks to prevent any physical damage or stress on your joints.
- Prevent injuries and possible infections.
- Eat healthy.
- Practice taking breaks between activities.
Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis is very painful. Although we cannot obviate that pain, we can help to ease your agony and make your life more independent with our range of products and expert assistance.
By Sai Ratna Manjari
Guest Author & Technical Researcher
Rheumatoid Arthritis, NIH | Rheumatoid Arthritis, PDF | Top 3 Types of Arthritis, WebMD | Tips for coping with Rheumatoid Arthritis, MAYO CLINIC