Rheumatoid Arthritis, RA is an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the joints in your body and usually happens on both sides of it.
It can damage a variety of body systems including skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.
This disease happens when the immune system in your body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues.
It is different from osteoarthritis because it affects the lining of joints, which causes painful swelling which can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.
As a result, RA causes inflammation, swelling in the affected parts of the body.
It also attacks the joints in your body at once. The most common joints it can affect are your hands, wrists, and knees.
In this disease, the lining of your joint becomes inflamed, therefore, causing damage to the joint tissue.
As it progresses. this tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, lack of balance, and deformity in the bones of your body.
Moreover, RA can affect and cause damage to other tissues of your body, sides of your body, and organs. These are the lungs, heart, and eyes.
Learn more about Autoimmune Diseases here.
Stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis, RA
The stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis were developed by the American College of Rheumatology and are based on X-rays and the appearance of joints.
This system helps to classify the severity of RA with respect to cartilage, ligaments, and bone.
This system has the following stages:
Early RA: This is the stage I and no damage is visible on X-rays.
There may be signs of bone thinning.
Moderate Progression: This is Stage II and there is evidence of bone thinning around a joint or without slight bone damage that is evident on X-rays.
Moreover, there is also slight damage to cartilage, joint mobility is limited, and abnormalities of soft tissues around the joint are also possible.
Severe Progssion: Stage III. There is clear evidence of cartilage and bone damage on X-ray and bone thinning around the joints.
Moreover, there is joint deformity without permanent stiffening, extensive muscle atrophy, and abnormalities of soft tissues are also possible.
Terminal Progression: Stage IV, as the disease progresses there is clear evidence of cartilage and bone damage and osteoporosis around the joints, along with joint deformity with permanent fixation of the joints.
Extensive muscle atrophy and abnormalities of soft tissues around the joints are also a possibility.
Signs and Symptoms of RA
The common signs and symptoms are inflammation and pain in the joints of the body. These symptoms and signs occur during the periods, Flares or Exercerbations.
Otherwise, they are in remission when the symptoms and signs disappear completely.
RA affects joints, sides of the body and eventually leads to tissues and immobility.
The joint symptoms include
- pain in the joints,
- stiffness other than affecting other organs of the body.
Moreover, they can vary from mild to moderate. It is important not to ignore the signs and symptoms even if they come and go.
Information about the early signs and symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis RA, and can help you and your healthcare provider to give better treatment and manage it as the disease progresses.
Muscle and joint stiffness are often noticeable in the morning and after periods of inactivity in a person.
Doctors refer to it as morning stiffness and post-sedentary stiffness.
During flares, your joints can frequently become warm, red, swollen, painful, and tender. This happens because of inflammation in the lining of the tissues of the joints.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis are not known. Doctors and health care researchers often suspect infectious agents like viruses, bacteria, and fungi but there is no such evidence.
It is also believed that you might develop Rheumatoid Arthritis as it is heredity. Moreover, certain genes can also increase the risk of developing RA.
Certain environmental and infectious diseases can also be the trigger of Rheumatoid Arthritis in susceptible individuals.
As a result, the immune system attacks the joints and sometimes various organs of the body such as lungs, or eyes.
Environmental Factors affecting People
Some studies suggest that certain environmental factors can also trigger Rheumatoid Arthritis in individuals.
For instance, tobacco, exposure to silica minerals and chronic periodontal disease increase the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis.
According to some theories, gut bacteria i.e. the microbe of the gut that exists in the lining of bowels may also trigger the onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis
To this date, there is no diagnosing test for Rheumatoid Arthritis, however, it is based on clinical presentation.
Your doctor or health care professional will diagnose this disease on the basis of a combination of the following signs and symptoms:
- Presentation of the joints of your body,
- Joint swelling, and stiffness in the morning,
- Presence of Rheumatoid Fator in your blood test and
- Anti-CCP and the presence of Rheumatoid nodules and radiography changes i.e. X-ray.
Moreover, it is also important during diagnosis, that whether these are the signs and symptoms of other issues related to the joints.
Your doctor will review your medical history and take a clinical examination of your joints.
During an examination, they will look for inflammation, tenderness, swelling, and deformity in the joints, and look for nodules.
These nodules are present most under the skin in the form of bumps or lumps.
Moreover, they will also look for inflammation in other parts of your body.
Your doctor will order blood tests for the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
These tests look for Rheumatoid factors in your blood. You can visit us for laboratory tests.
Doctors can take image tests such as an X-ray or MRIs to look at the joints of your body.
These tests are able to show whether you have swelling of soft tissues in the joints or not. It also reveals bony erosions.
Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis, RA
There is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis however, certain steps can ensure the management of the signs and symptoms of this disease.
Moreover, with advancement in effective treatment strategies results are improving and results in a better quality of life for those with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
The treatment philosophy is very effective in managing this disease, Treat to Target Rheumatoid Arthritis.
This treatment involves:
- Setting a specific testing goal that signals either remission or low disease state in an individual
- Testing acute phase reactants and performing monthly monitoring to assess the progress of the treatment
- Switching medications promptly if progress is not made.
Moreover, treatment helps to manage pain and inflammation which can result in remission.
Moreover, decreasing inflammation can also help prevent further damage to the joints and organs.
Medications for Rheumatoid Arthritis, RA
There are different medications for treating Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Some help to reduce pain and inflammation however some of these reduces the flares and limit the damage of RA to your joints.
The following medications can help to reduce the pain and inflammation in the joints:
- NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
The following drugs work to slow the damage that Rheumatoid Arthritis:
DMARDs: Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs works by blocking your body’s immune system response.
Biologics: These provide a targeted response to the inflammation rather than blocking the immune system of your body.
JAK Inhibitors: Janus kinase inhibitors block certain immune responses and help to prevent inflammation and stop damage to the joints.
Home remedies and lifestyle adjustments can help improve the quality of life if you are living with RA. People with RA should:
Rest: People may need more rest during flare-ups and less during remission.
Moreover, getting enough sleep will help reduce inflammation and pain as well.
Hot or Cold Compress: Applying a hot or cold compress can help to reduce inflammation and pain. They are also effective against Muscle Spasm.
Exercise: Low impact exercise can improve motion in your joints and increase your mobility.
Moreover, these exercises strengthen your muscles to relieve pressure from the joints.
Your doctor or health care provider can recommend an anti-inflammatory diet plan to help with the symptoms and signs of RA.
This diet consists of Omega 3 fatty acids. This includes fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring, chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts.
Foods that are rich in anti-oxidants properties are as follows:
- Berries like blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, etc,
- dark chocolate,
- kidney beans,
Moreover, eating whole-grain foods, fresh vegetables, and fruits is beneficial.
Studies suggest that foods that contain flavonoids like
- soy products,
- green tea,
can also help encounter inflammation in the body.
Learn more about foods that can help boost your Immune System.
Risk Factors and Complications
Certain factors that may increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis are as follows:
- Gender: Females are more likely the males to develop RA.
- Environmental Exposure: Certain environmental factors such as asbestos or silica may increase the risk of developing RA.
- Family History: If either of your parents or both of your siblings suffers from this disease, RA may also affect you.
- Smoking: Smoking cigarettes can also increase the risk factor, especially if you have a family history of RA.
How Rheumatoid Arthritis is different from Osteoarthritis
Just like in RA, you face joint inflammation and stiff joints in Osteoarthritis.
You can have joint swelling after extensive daily activity however in OA, it does not cause a significant inflammatory reaction.
Unline in RA, Osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disease. It is natural water and tear of the joints as you age or it can develop due to trauma.
Moreover, OA is common in adults. However, it is sometimes visible in young adults also.
For instance, people who play tennis and other athletics are prone to suffer from osteoarthritis.RA is an autoimmune disease and does not cause wear and tear.
Rheumatoid Arthritis, RA is a chronic disease. It does not have a cure, however, most people do not show constant symptoms.
Instead, they have flare-ups followed by relatively small remission periods. Moreover, the symptoms can range from mild to serve and the course varies from one person to another.
Although symptoms may stop for extended periods of time, joint problems by RA eventually get worse. That is why early treatment is important. Consult your doctor or health care provider about the treatment plan so that you can delay serious joint damage.