Rheumatoid Arthritis – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms and Treatment

Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms and Treatment

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (R.A) is an auto immune disease affecting several joints simultaneously causing inflammation, swelling, stiffness and pain.

In the early stage the small joints are affected with pain and swelling. The typical feature of the disease is morning stiffness of the joints lasting for more than one hour. It runs in certain families suggesting a genetic factor involved. The disease affects people of all ages and seen three times more in women than in men.

Pathogenesis of the disease:

Since it is an auto immune disease antibodies are formed against the persons own body tissues like synovial covering of the joints causing inflammation, swelling and pain As the disease progresses it attacks the ligaments, tendons and cartilaginous covering of the bones. It is a chronic disease with repeated attacks. However in 75% of the patients the malady runs in a mild form and in non persistent nature. In about 5-10% it recurs in a mild form. In the rest of the patients the disease progresses causing severe inflammation with involvement of several joints and deformities.

What are the symptoms of the disease?

Generalised symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite

Localised symptoms:

  • Stiffness, swelling and painful joints.
  • Morning stiffness of the joints lasting for more than one hour.
  • Painless small bumps on the hands called nodules.
  • Symmetrical nature of the affected joints
  • The wrists are more affected with pain and swelling

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed:

The disease can easily be diagnosed by the nature of the symptoms like involvement of several joints, morning stiffness of joints lasting for more than one hour and the symmetrical nature It is also diagnosed by blood testing for the specific antibody Rheumatoid factor in the serum. Blood test is also done to test the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (E.S.R) and platelet count which are generally high in RA. Further ‘X’ ray study of the bones reveal the extent of damage.

Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Basically there is no cure for this disease. However the treatment aims to control the disease preventing further progress causing damage to the joint tissues and bones. Pain and inflammation is controlled by non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAID).

In prolonged and severe forms anti rheumatic drugs like sulphasalzine, chloroquin (Anti malarial drugs), methotrxate and gold compounds (Disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs) (DMARD) are given. While giving these drugs careful monitoring of the patient is necessary due to their serious side effects. Corticosteroids are also administered to control the antibody formation (Immunosuppressive drugs). Anaemia in rheumatoid arthritis is treated with a hormone Erythropoietin.

Mild exercise, hot fomentation to the affected joints, steam baths and bathing in hot water tubs gives a great relief to the patients. Mild exercise helps in keeping the joints in mobility. Severe exercise should be avoided as it may increase the joint pains.

What Diet should be taken by Arthritic patients:

Easily digestible and nutritious food should be taken. A vegetarian diet with fresh vegetables, greens and fruits helps in the recovery of the patients. Eating fish supplements omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA which are good in reducing the inflammation of the joints.

Alternate methods of treatment:

  • Regular practice of yoga and meditation helps in a positive way in alleviating the malady.
  • Hearing of music helps in curing of the disease.
  • Ayurvedic drugs like guggulu and suvarna bhasma are common drugs used in Ayurveda in several forms of arthritis including RA.
  • External applications made with mustard oil, garlic and camphor have got an ameliorating affect on the inflamed joints.
  • Homeopathic drugs can also be tried claimed to give a complete relief.

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