What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the cells that line the joints by mistake. This causes inflammation and pain in the joints, making them stiff and swollen. As a chronic condition characterised by chronic pain, swelling and stiff joints, Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of the most typical rheumatic diseases; usually affecting the hands, wrists and feet. While the joints are the most affected by the inflammation, other parts of the body including the organs can be too. When the thin layer of cells (known as the synovium) that cover joints become sore and inflamed, chemicals are released that can damage the bones, cartilage (the connective tissue between bones), tendons (the tissue that connects bone to muscle) and the ligaments (the tissue that connects bone and cartilage). While Rheumatoid Arthritis affects everyone differently, there are occasions where flare-ups can occur and then it can become inactive. Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis can include feeling tired and unwell, along with stiffness…especially when waking up in the morning or after sitting still for a long time. If it’s left untreated, gradually the chemicals cause the joint to lose alignment and shape…and eventually, the inflammation destroys the joint completely. Other difficulties that people with RA face include pain, loss of strength and movement in inflamed joints. While it’s unclear what causes the condition, you’re more at risk if you’re female, a smoker or have a history of rheumatoid arthritis. The condition often has its peak onset within the fifth or sixth decade of life. When left untreated, the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis get progressively worse. Eventually, severe damage is done to the joints and major organs, causing deformity and loss of mobility. Rheumatoid Arthritis can have effects on the skin. The immune response can attack the lining of the joints. Rashes, blisters and lumps are a common occurrence with untreated RA. Uncontrolled RA is also caused by inflammation spreading to blood vessels, causing them to narrow. This can cause blockages and clots in the arteries and smaller blood vessels.  

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

There are various ways to tackle the inflammation that causes rheumatoid arthritis. Treatments may include the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can be used alongside DMARDs to tackle inflammation and pain. Steroids can also quickly reduce severe inflammation. If a joint is very painful, then joint surgery may need to be considered. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are also given soon after RA diagnosis, to slow down the disease process. Meanwhile, the use of biologics such as anti-TNFs can also fight inflammation. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, there are measures you can take to manage the symptoms. Simple everyday tasks are made easier by using special equipment such as gadgets and splints. A physiotherapist can also give you a range of exercises to keep your muscles strong, while retaining a good range of joint movement. Self-management programmes can also teach you the necessary skills for living your life to the fullest.
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