There is no possible way you haven’t heard the term “rheumatoid arthritis” at least once by now. The second word in this two word term is pretty easy to understand given the fact that almost every one of us has an older relative that suffers from arthritis at a certain point in their lives.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a more complex type of arthritis which is less known, but it has started to be a more common disease. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes pain, swelling and deformities of the hand, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and feet. It normally appears when the body’s immune system, designed to protect it from viruses, bacteria and other foreign objects, starts attacking the joints, resulting in pain, swelling and morning stiffness. Around 30% of the people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis have a relative in their family that also has the disease.
According to Dr. Brett Smith, rheumatologist at Blount Memorial, rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of all ages, meaning children, adolescents, young adults and the elderly can all suffer from it.
Smith says that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) usually affects women more than men, statistically two or three females being affected for every one male. The disease can affect patients in different ways therefore it is important to consult a rheumatologist to determine if you suffer from RA or not. Diagnosing the disease early makes it easier to treat and reduces the risk of complications.
Smith says that there are specific signs you should take into consideration before consulting a doctor. Some of the first symptoms of arthritis are pain, morning stiffness and joint swelling. At the same time, if one of the patient’s parents suffers from RA, she or he might require an evaluation. The two most important parts of diagnosing RA is taking with the patients to see what are their symptoms and a good physical exam. Around 85% of the patients diagnosed with RA have positive blood tests for the disease. Despite the fact that blood tests are an inconclusive method for determining if you have RA or not, they can help to reach a proper diagnosis. X-rays are another good way of finding evidence of RA. What is important to understand is the fact the inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can affect the entire body, especially the cardiovascular system and the bones. RA can cause high blood pressure, cholesterol problems and potential heart attacks.
Although there is no cure for RA, there are some treatments that can prove effective against it. Smith says that there are around 20 medications available for treating rheumatoid arthritis, which can reduce pain and swelling, and also improve their overall quality of life. You can either take pills or injections for treating the disease. in order to put the disease in remission patients need to take arthritis treatment for months or even years, but once it’s in remission they can live relatively normal lives.