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Rheumatoid Arthritis


        Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that can affect more than just your joints. It is a long term condition that causes stiffness and swelling in the joints. Most commonly it affects the hands, feet and wrists. In some people it affects other parts of the body such as skin, eyes, blood vessels, heart and lungs.


Causes


Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium. This results in inflammation and thickening of synovium. If this inflammation goes unchecked, it eventually destroys the cartilage and bone within the joint. Overtime, there will be loss of cartilage, the joints become unstable, loses its mobility and deformity of join also can occur.


Symptoms


Early rheumatoid arthritis affects smaller joints like, fingers to hand or toes to feet and it spreads to the wrists, knees, elbows, shoulder, hips and ankles as the disease progresses, it may result in joints to shift out of the place or joint deformity.
The following are symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Pain in joints (such as hands, feet and knees)
  • Loss of joint function
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Stiffness in joints
  • Rheumatoid nodules
  • Swelling in joints
  • Polyarthritis or symmetry (symptoms that affect both sides of the body)
  • Tenderness in joints
  • Joint deformity
  • Joint warmth and redness
  • Fatigue, fever and weight loss       

Risk factors


The real cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is unknown; the following are some of the factors that increase the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis:
Family History: You may have increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis if any of your family members has this disease.
Age and sex: It can occur at any age, but most commonly it begins at the age of 40 to 60. Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than man.
Obesity: Obese people, especially women appear to be at somewhat higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Smoking: Smoking cigarette increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, especially those who are having genetic predisposition for developing the disease.
Environmental Exposures: Certain exposures such as silica or asbestos increase the risk of developing the disease.


Diagnosis


It is difficult to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis at early stages, because the symptoms mimic those of many other diseases. The diagnosis include multiple lab test and physical examination, it begins with checking medical history and conducting a physical exam. Then the doctor may test the blood for rheumatoid factor and other antibodies. The doctor may also request for certain imaging tests such as X ray, Ultrasound and MRI, to determine the inflammation and damage of joints.

Treatment

There is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment helps to reduce the pain and inflammation. The main treatment options include:

  • Long term medications to prevent the progress of the condition and to get relieve from the symptoms.
  • Physiotherapy and other supportive treatments to keep the joint mobile.
  • Surgeries to correct the joint problems.

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