Your Ultimate Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis..

Are you having joint pain that is causing pain throughout your body? It might be Rheumatoid Arthritis, RA

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the joints in your body and usually happens on both sides of it.

In some people, it can damage a  variety of body systems including skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. This disease happens when the immune system in our body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues.

It is different from osteoarthritis as it affects the lining of joints, which causes painful swelling which can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.

The inflammation caused can eventually damage other parts of the body. While medications have improved the treatment over time, severe Rheumatoid Arthritis can still cause physical disabilities.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis, RA?

This is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease and happens when the immune system attacks the healthy cells in your body by mistake.

As a result of this attack, it causes inflammation, swelling in the affected parts of the body.

RA attacks the joints in your body at once. The most common joints it affects are the hands, wrists, and knees.

Rheumatoid ArthritisIn this disease, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to the joint tissue. As the disease progresses. this tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, lack of balance, and deformity in the bones of your body.

Moreover, RA affects and can cause damage to other tissues of your body, sides of your body, and organs. These are the lungs, heart, and eyes.

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Types of Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are different types of Rheumatoid Arthritis, RA however, your doctor or healthcare provider can devise a medication and treatment plan that depends on the type of this disease you are suffering from.

The following are the types of RA:

Seropositive RA: If your blood tests positive for a protein, Rheumatoid Factor (RA), or for the antibody-anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP), then it means that your body is actively producing an immune reaction to your normal tissues.

In this case, your chances of developing RA are 4 times greater if either or both of your parents or siblings test positive for this test as well.

Almost 80% of people who have a positive RA are RF-positive according to a study. Moreover, having these proteins in your blood doe not necessarily mean that you have RA. However, in case you do, it can help you doctors identify the type of it.

Seronegative RA: In this test, if you have a negative result for RF and anti-CCP test, you can still have Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Moreover, your doctor will consider the clinical symptoms, X-ray, and other laboratory tests in this type of RA. It is important to note that people who test negative for these tests have a milder form of RA than those who test positive.

Juvenile RA (Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis): According to a study, this is the most common type of Rheumatoid Arthritis in children younger than 17 years of age.

The symptoms of this type may be temporary or last for a lifetime. Moreover, like adult RA, the symptoms include joint pain, inflammation, stiffness, and pain.

However, if the disease is severe, it can also cause eye inflammation, and interfere with the child’s growth and development.

Stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis

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 doctors to classify the severity of RA with respect to cartilage, ligaments, and bone.

This system has  stages:

Early RA: This is the stage I and no damage is visible on X-rays and 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.

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.

Stages of Rheumatoid ArthritisMoreover, 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.

Functional Status of People

Rheumatologists also classify the functional status of people with this disease as follows:

People who are completely able to perform the activities of daily life, this is Class I.

People who are able to perform usual self-care and work activities, however, there are limitations in activities outside of work like playing, household chores, this is Class II.

Those who are able to perform self-care however, there is a limitation to work they perform and other activities, this is Class III

Class IV, there is limited ability to perform usual self-care, work, and other activities.

Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The most 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 your joints, sides of the body and eventually leads to tissues and immobility.

The joint symptoms include pain in the joints, swelling, and stiffness other than affecting other organs of the body.

Moreover, the symptoms can vary from mild to moderate. It is important not to ignore the signs and symptoms even if they come and go.

Signs and SymtpomsIt is important to know the early signs and symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis RA, and they 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.

It is important to note that during flares, your joints 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

To this date, the cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is 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 a person might develop Rheumatoid Arthritis as it is heredity. Certain genes 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.

Regardless of the exact trigger o Rheumatoid Arthritis, it results in the immune system and promotes inflammation in the tissues of the body and joints.

Environmental Factors

Studies suggest that certain environmental factors can also trigger Rheumatoid Arthritis in individuals.
For instance, smoking tobacco, exposure to silica minerals and chronic periodontal disease increase the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Certain theories suggest that gut bacteria i.e. the microbe of the gut that naturally exists in the lining of bowels may also trigger the onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

However, no specific microbe has been identified as a definite cause.

Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis

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:

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.

It is also important during diagnosis, that whether these are the signs and symptoms of other issues related to the joints.

DiagnosisPhysical Examination: In the first step, your doctor will review your medical history and take a clinical examination of your joints.

During this 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.

Blood Tests: Your doctor will also 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.

Image Testing: Doctors also take image tests like X-rays or MRIs to look at the joints of your body. These tests show whether you have swelling of soft tissues in the joints or not. It also reveals bony erosions.

Treatment Options

There is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis however, there is one to manage the signs and symptoms of this disease.

There has been advancement in effective treatment strategies which results in improving outcomes and better quality of life for those with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The treatment philosophy is very effective in managing this disease, Treat to Target Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Treatment options This effective 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.

Treatment helps to manage pain and inflammation which in many cases results in remission. Moreover, decreasing inflammation can also help prevent further damage to the joints and organs.

Medications for Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are several types of medications for treating Rheumatoid Arthritis. Some of these help to reduce pain and inflammation however some of these reduces the flares and limit the damage of RA to your joints.

These are the medications that can help to reduce the pain and inflammation in the joints:

  • NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Acetaminophen

The following drugs work to slow the damage that Rheumatoid Arthritis causes to your body:

DMARDs: Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs works by blocking your body’s immune system response.

Biologics: These medications 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 your joints.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle

Certain home remedies and lifestyle adjustments can help improve the quality of life if you are living with RA. These include:

Rest: You may need more rest during flare-ups and less during remission. Moreover, getting enough sleep will help reduce inflammation and pain as well. Exercise

Exercise: Low impact exercise can help you to improve motion in your joints and therefore increase your mobility. These exercises strengthen your muscles which can help relieve pressure from the joints.

Hot or Cold Compress: Apply hot or cold compress can help to reduce inflammation and pain. They are also effective against Muscle Spasm.

Diet for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Your doctor or health care provider can recommend an anti-inflammatory diet plan to help with the symptoms and signs of RA. This diet includes Omega 3 fatty acids. This includes fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring, chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts.

They may also recommend anti-oxidants like Vitamin A, C, and E along with Selenium to reduce inflammation.

Foods that are rich in anti-oxidants properties are as follows:

Berries like blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, etc, dark chocolate, spinach, kidney beans, pecans, and artichokes.

Diet for Rheumatoid ArthritisEating fiber is also important as it can help reduce inflammation and may decrease C-reactive protein levels in your blood.

Moreover, you should choose whole-grain foods, fresh vegetables, and fruits. Studies suggest that foods that contain flavonoids like soy products, berries, green tea, broccoli, and grapes can also help encounter inflammation in the body.

Risk Factors

Certain factors that may increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis are as follows:

Gender: Females are more likely the males to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

Family History: If any one of your family members has 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.

Environmental Exposure: Some environmental factors like asbestos or silica may increase the risk of developing RA.

Difference between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

Just like in RA, people can face joint inflammation and stiff joints in Osteoarthritis. They may 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.

Differnece between RA and OAMoreover, Osteoarthritis is common among adults. However, it is sometimes visible in young adults as well.

For instance, people who play tennis and other athletics may suffer from osteoarthritis.RA is an autoimmune disease and does not cause wear and tear.

The Takeaway

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic disease and does not have a cure. However, most people with this disease 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 of the disease varies from one person to another.

Although these symptoms may stop for extended periods of time, joint problems by RA eventually get worse. That is why early treatment is important. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about the treatment plan so that you can delay serious joint damage.


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