Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the lining of the joints. Rheumatic conditions can affect the lining of the joints in any part of the body, including the arms, wrists, or knees.
Rheumatic conditions may also affect the skin, eyes, lungs, blood, and nerves. In some cases, fatigue and drastic weight loss are also caused by rheumatic conditions.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term disease that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in joints. In some patients, rheumatic conditions can get worse and more difficult to predict.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, in which the immune system attacks healthy parts of the body. The immune system essentially functions to attack bacteria and viruses that enter the body, helping fight infection.
When a person is exposed to rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system that normally fights bad bacteria, mistakenly turns to attack the lining of joints. This condition causes the lining to thicken, creating a layer of cells that protects the joints, causing pain and inflammation. This inflammation can also occur in the area around the joints, such as:
- Cartilage, the flexible tissue between the bones.
- Veins, the tissue that connects bones to muscles.
- Ligaments, tissues that connect bones to cartilage.
It is not known what exactly triggers the immune system to attack the lining of the joints.
When to See a Doctor for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The diagnosis of rheumatic disease will be carried out by a rheumatologist specialist (rheumatologist). Doctors will not be able to immediately assess and diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, as its symptoms are almost similar to the symptoms of other joint infections.
The doctor will carry out the diagnostic process by conducting a medical interview first. The doctor will ask about the patient’s symptoms and medical history. Subsequently, if the doctor suspects rheumatoid arthritis, the patient will be advised to do a series of additional tests.
One of the most common tests for rheumatoid arthritis is a blood test. Blood tests cannot fully detect rheumatic conditions, but they are accurate enough to show indications of rheumatoid-related conditions.
Blood tests may include:
- Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR), a test to measure inflammation in the body, especially joints.
- C-reactive Protein (CRP), a test similar to ESR that measures joint inflammation.
- Complete blood count test, a test to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms being experienced and measure indicators of general health.
The three blood tests above also function to check for anemia. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis commonly develop anemia.
Apart from blood tests, other examinations are also carried out by scanning the joints. Scans will be helpful to find out if there is inflammation in the joints and the severity.
Scanning can be done through:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The most common symptoms in people with rheumatoid arthritis include joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis can also sometimes cause symptoms in other parts of the body.
Pain that occurs when a person deals with rheumatic disease may include throbbing and aching pain. This pain generally gets worse in the morning or after a long period of doing nothing.
Rheumatoid arthritis also causes stiffness in the joints. For example, when the arm is affected by rheumatic diseases, the person may lose the ability to completely bend the fingers or form a fist.
Rheumatic symptoms occur gradually within several weeks. However, in some cases, the symptoms can also appear quickly in a matter of days.
Each patient may experience different symptoms. Apart from the joint pain, other symptoms that may arise include:
- High body temperature.
- Weight loss.
- Loss of appetite.
- Feeling tired and lack of energy
When a person has rheumatoid arthritis, the inflamed rheumatic part may also spread to other parts of the body. These other body parts are usually:
- Eyes – causing dry eyes.
- Liver and lungs – causing pain in the chest.
Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis patients is usually done by relieving the swelling, pain, and stiffness felt in the joints. However, there is no cure for the disease.
Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis usually involves more than the expertise of a rheumatologist. Rheumatic conditions often attack other parts of the body as well. Therefore, treatment must be carried out carefully and will involve other relevant specialist doctors.
There are two types of medications given to prevent rheumatic symptoms from getting worse:
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). This type of drug comes in tablet form and helps slow the growth of worsening rheumatoid arthritis. DMARDs work by blocking chemicals that are released when the body’s immune system attacks the joints.
- Biological treatment. The most recent treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Biological treatment is usually given through injection. However, this treatment may cause side effects such as infection, feeling weak and sick, headaches, and high body temperature.
Treatment Cost for Rheumatoid Arthritis
The cost for Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment varies, depending on the symptoms and the parts affected by the disease.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis, like other autoimmune diseases, occurs without a known cause. Therefore, it is difficult to identify the triggers for rheumatoid arthritis and learn how to prevent them.
However, similar to any other disease or medical condition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help improve one’s immune system and protect yourself from diseases.
A healthy lifestyle can be achieved by maintaining a balanced diet and an exercise routine. Activities such as running, jogging, or walking are relatively safe and have low risk. Maintaining a proportional body weight can also help avoid rheumatoid arthritis.
For active smokers, it is strongly advised to quit your smoking habit and keep away from cigarette smoke. You should also try to stop consuming too much alcohol.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment is carried out by taking medication to relieve pain and stiffness.