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What are the Signs, Symptoms And Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

30-Second Summary
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory and autoimmune condition, which can lead to pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints.
  • Inflammation is one of the signs of rheumatoid arthritis that may also affect other parts of the body such as the lungs, heart, blood vessels, eyes, and skin.
  • This disease can cause debilitating pain and stiffness, which has a detrimental effect on daily life and the ability to carry out ordinary tasks on your own.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition where your immune system begins to attack some of the tissue in your body. This causes swelling in the lining of the joints, causing the joints to become damaged and the bones eroded.
  • According to the World Health Organization, the worldwide prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis is 0.3-1%. The average age of diagnosis is between 35 and 50, and your chances of developing the condition increase as you get older. People in developed countries are more likely to be diagnosed.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Facts

This is one of the dozens of different conditions which is labeled arthritis. Rather than specifically being a joint condition, rheumatoid arthritis is both an inflammatory disorder and an autoimmune condition. It’s a progressive disease that can lead to severe joint deformity over time and debilitating pain and inflammation [1].

Early treatment for this disease leads to a much better prognosis, so if you are experiencing joint or other symptoms, check with a doctor immediately. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition. However, there are several treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, including medicine, rest, surgery, and exercise [2].

Why Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Develop?

The true cause of rheumatoid arthritis is still being researched, there’s no real consensus yet on this point. However, there are many risk factors [3] [1]:

  • Gender – For some unknown reason, women have a higher risk of developing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis compared to men.
  • Genetics – There is a hereditary component to rheumatoid arthritis. If a close relative was diagnosed with the condition, this increases your chances of developing it. This is especially true if it’s an immediate family member like a parent.
  • Injury – If you have a joint injury or bone fracture, it can increase your chances of developing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis later on in life. Trauma to these areas can lead to an ongoing inflammatory condition.
  • Periodontal Disease – There’s evidence that the bacteria associated with certain types of periodontal disease can cause rheumatoid arthritis. A review in Current Opinions in Rheumatology examined the strong link between periodontal disease and this condition.
  • Obesity – Being obese is a big risk factor for developing this disease. This is particularly the case for women under the age of 55. According to the Arthritis Foundation, obesity can also worsen existing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, lessen the efficacy of some medications, and lead to future health issues.

Possible Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis

signs-of-rheumatoid-arthritis

With many conditions, the early symptoms are quite different from the actual condition itself. However, the signs of rheumatoid arthritis are similar to the early warning symptoms. They include joint tenderness, swelling, stiffness, pain, warmth, redness, and possibly joint deformity [2].

There may also be loss of joint function and range of motion. Other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include fever, depression, anemia, and limping. Normally many joints are involved on both sides of the body [2].

Indications of Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are several symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Some of the most common are:

  • Swollen Joints – One of the primary signs of rheumatoid arthritis is swollen, inflamed joints. As this is an inflammatory disease, the joints are often under attack in this way.
  • Joint Pain – Swollen joints tend to go along with a lot of pain, as the inflammation causes blood to go flowing to the area. The swelling can touch nerves around the joints and then press against them. There are some excellent home remedies for RA, which can lessen joint pain.
  • Stiffness – Stiffness is one of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which tends to occur when there’s not enough lubrication in the space between the joints. This lack of moisture makes movement difficult and can lead to problems with flexibility and mobility.
  • Loss of Range of Motion – Stiffness, and swelling make movement difficult, and this leads to loss of range of motion. This is the extent to which your joints can move. This loss makes it very difficult to carry out daily tasks.
  • Fatigue – Fighting with pain and inflammation can make you extremely tired. One of the signs of rheumatoid arthritis is extreme fatigue, and it can add more hardship to an already challenging disease.
  • Rheumatoid Nodules – These are hard little lumps of skin that develop near the joints in about 25% of people with rheumatoid arthritis. They do not occur in any other known condition.

How Doctors Recognize Rheumatoid Arthritis?

recognize-rheumatoid-arthritis

It’s not easy for a doctor to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis because the symptoms are similar to some other conditions, like some types of arthritis. The physician will begin with a physical exam and check your joints carefully for inflammation, warmth, and tenderness. They will ask you about your physical symptoms and your family history.

If the doctor sees some of the signs of rheumatoid arthritis, he or she may request some common blood tests, which assess for this disease. For example, one test looks for rheumatoid antibodies, while another examines inflammation levels.

After the doctor decides to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, he or she may request an MRI or ultrasound to see how the disease has progressed, and an x-ray to watch the progression of the condition and follow up with treatment.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Therapeutics

The physician will diagnose rheumatoid arthritis and following this, he or she will discuss your treatment options. An article in the Journal of Clinical Medicine discussed current therapeutic options in treating arthritis.

There are some medications that may be recommended for pain and inflammation, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, acetaminophen, or corticosteroids [1].

There are also biologic agents that target the immune system and prevent it from doing further damage. Also, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs slow the course and the condition and prevent further tissue harm [1].

Another common and useful treatment for this condition is physiotherapy and/or occupational therapy. A physical therapist will teach you safe exercises for strengthening the joints and bringing back your mobility. An occupational therapist will provide you with tools that will make it easier to get through your day and teach you easier ways of accomplishing things that won’t harm your joints further.

There are also surgical options for this disease. There are several procedures that aim to repair the existing damage to the joints and ease symptoms. They can perform a total joint removal and replace it with a prosthetic, a surgical fusion of the joints, a repair of the tendons surrounding the joints, or a synovectomy to remove the joint lining [1].

These are the medical options available to you, and you may combine several approaches as discussed with your doctor. However, there are also quite a few home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis, which you could try.

Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis at Home

treating-rheumatoid-arthritis-at-home

Home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis may involve lifestyle changes, while others are just helpful treatments for symptoms.

1. Heat and Cold

Applying an ice pack to inflamed joints can reduce swelling, and it can also numb the area so you don’t feel the pain as much. Apply the ice in 20-minute sessions as needed. If you have stiff joints and muscles, you can use heat to ease them. Take a hot bath or apply a hot water bottle or heating pad. Try to limit each session to 20 minutes.

2. Diet

A healthy arthritis diet should be high in anti-inflammatory properties to reduce the swelling in your muscles and joints. This includes a lot of omega 3-fatty acids, such as fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds [4].

You should include foods with antioxidants, which can help reduce joint damage and can also lower swelling. Examples are berries, kale, dark chocolate, kidney beans, artichoke, and pecans. People with rheumatoid arthritis should eat lots of fiber as well as foods with flavonoids like soy, grapes, and tofu [4].

There are certain foods that people with arthritis should avoid. Examples are saturated and trans fats, processed carbohydrates, red meat, fried foods, sugar, alcohol, and cheese, and low-fat dairy [5].

3. Physical Activity

Low-impact physical activity can do a lot to strengthen the muscles, which support your joints, and restore range of motion in your joints. Good exercises for arthritis sufferers include walking, swimming, and yoga. An article in the Journal of Aging Research examined the benefits of exercise for this disease. This makes exercise one of the best home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis.

4. Sleep

Dealing with pain and inflammation is exhausting and often leads to constant fatigue. Make sure you get enough sleep every night because being well-rested can reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Sleep difficulties can increase the chance of flare-ups and elevate levels of stress hormones. Patients with this disease often have sleep difficulties. This is a problem that you should discuss with your doctor.

5. Massage

Invite a massage therapist to the house or have someone you care about to give you a regular massage. This will loosen your muscles and help relieve joint tension. A one-month study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience less pain and a better range of motion when having regular massages.

stiffness

Popular Questions

Yes, it certainly can if the symptoms are bad to severe. The inflammation and pain can be overwhelming and may prevent you from doing anything untreated. The stiffness and loss of mobility make it difficult to carry out daily tasks. Fortunately, there are some excellent treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, which can help make your days much easier.

When you have initial symptoms, you’ll go to your regular doctor where they will get your history and give you some blood tests. If the doctor suspects that you may have any kind of arthritis or sees the signs of rheumatoid arthritis, you’ll be referred to a rheumatologist.

A rheumatologist is a physician who works with people who suffer from arthritis and other related diseases. They will be the ones to perform some tests and diagnose rheumatoid arthritis.

Yes, it can cause moderate to severe back pain. With this condition, the immune system attacks body tissue, including the synovial lining of the spine. This may lead to compression of the spine or nerves in that area. Arthritis is most common in the back and neck, so the chances of having pain there are high. However, there are many treatments for rheumatoid arthritis that can ease these symptoms.

The doctor can diagnose rheumatoid arthritis in any of the joints in the body. The condition also affects joints on both sides, which sets it apart from other types of arthritis where it’s just one wrist or one knee, for example. Also, it spreads out and affects other parts of the body other than the joints, like the nerves, eyes, lungs, skin, nerves, or heart.

This is an autoimmune condition that develops when your immune system mistakenly begins to attack the tissues in your body. There are risk factors to developing the disease, such as obesity, periodontal disease, an injury, genetic factors, smoking, certain environmental substances, and your gender [1]. There are also many effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.

The Final Word

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory and auto-immune condition, which involves pain, inflammation, and stiffness in any of the joints in the body. This leads to difficulty with day-to-day functioning and movement. It’s a progressive condition that gets worse with time.

Fortunately, there are several different treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. These may involve many possible medications, surgery, or occupational therapy. Many people with this disease find at least some relief with a combination of different remedies.

In conjunction with your medical treatment, there are also some lifestyle changes you can make, which can do a lot to improve your condition. Several home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis include a diet rich in anti-inflammatory agents, exercise, massage, sleeping well, and using hot and cold packs.

A combination of good treatment methods should ease your symptoms and allow you to carry on with a productive, pain-free life.

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