What is Rheumatoid ?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. This condition can also affect the tissues surrounding the joints (muscles, tendons, ligaments) as well as other organs of the body (skin, blood vessels, heart, lungs and muscles).

RA is a chronic condition and it tends to last for many years though there are periods in between when the patient is without any symptom. RA is a progressive condition and over a period of time, it causes joint destruction and functional disability.

Causes:

Scientists largely believe that the tendency to develop rheumatoid arthritis may be genetically inherited. It is also suspected that certain infections or factors in the environment might trigger the immune system to attack the body's own tissues (Autoimmune response), resulting in inflammation. In any case, the autoimmune response causes chronic inflammation of the joints, that later progresses to joint destruction. Stress can act a predisposing factor as well as a trigger to induce acute episodes of the condition.

The disease is three times more common in women as compared to men. It afflicts people of all races equally. The disease can begin at any age, but peak incidence is seen between 40 to 60 years of age.

Symptoms:

The course of RA varies from patient to patient. There are stages when the disease is active and this is called a ‘Flare-up’. In between the flare-ups are episodes when the patient is absolutely free from symptoms, such periods are called ‘Remissions’.

Common symptoms during the active stage of RA are as follows:

  • Joint swelling, redness and tenderness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Limited range of motion of joints
  • Deformities of hands and feet (at later stages)
  • Muscular pains
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Usually multiple joints are affected at one time (polyarthritis)
  • Symmetrical affection of joints is common
  • Small joints of hands and feet; elbows, ankles are commonly involved
  • Skin redness or inflammation
  • Round, painless nodules under the skin
  • Inflammation of the lung (pleurisy)
  • Swollen glands
  • Anemia

 

Diagnosis of RA:

Following are the common tests done to diagnose RA:

  • RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) factor
  • X-ray of the joint
  • ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate)
  • C-Reactive proteins (CRP)
  • CBC (Complete blood count)

Self-Care at Home

If you have joint pain or stiffness, you may think it is just a normal part of getting older and that there is nothing you can do. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have several options for medical treatment and even more to help prevent further joint damage and symptoms. You should discuss these measures with your health care provider to find ways to make them work for you.

  • First of all, don’t delay diagnosis or treatment. Having a correct diagnosis allows your health care provider to form a treatment plan. Delaying treatment increases your risk that the arthritis will get worse and that you will develop serious complications.
  • Learn everything you can about your condition. Ask your health care provider if you have questions. If you want to learn more, ask him or her to direct you to reliable sources of information.

Increase your physical activity.

  • Exercise is a very important part of a complete treatment plan for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • You may think that exercise is bad for arthritic joints, but research overwhelmingly shows that exercise in rheumatoid arthritis helps reduce pain and fatigue, increases your range of motion (flexibility) and strength, and keeps you feeling better overall.
  • Three types of exercise are helpful: range of motion exercise, strengthening exercise, and endurance (cardio or aerobic) exercise. Water aerobics are an excellent choice because they increase range of motion and endurance while keeping weight off the joints of your lower body.
  • Talk to your health care provider about how to start an exercise program and what types of exercises to do. He or she may refer you to a physical therapist or exercise specialist.

Protect your joints.

  • At least once a day, move each joint through its full range of motion. Do not overdo or move the joint in any way that causes pain. This helps keep freedom of motion in your joints
  • Avoid situations that are likely to strain your joints. Remember that your joints are more susceptible to damage when they are swollen and painful. Avoid stressing the joint at such times.
  • Learn proper body mechanics. This means learning to use and move your body in ways that reduce the stress on your joints. This is especially true for your hands, since you want to protect their flexibility. Ask your health care provider or physical therapist for suggestions on how to avoid joint strain.
  • Be creative in thinking up new ways to carry out tasks and activities.
  • Use the strongest joint available for the job. Avoid using your fingers, for example, if your wrist can do the job.

Alternate periods of rest and activity through the day. This is called pacing.

  • General rest is an important part of rheumatoid arthritis treatment, but avoid keeping your joints in the same position for too long a time. Get up and move; use your hands.
  • Holding the joint still for long periods just promotes stiffness. Keep the joints moving to keep them flexible.
  • If you must sit for long periods, say at work or while traveling, take a short break every hour: stand up, walk around, stretch, and flex your joints.
  • Rest before you become tired or sore.

Take part in activities you enjoy every day.

  • This can improve your outlook and help you put your arthritis in perspective.
  • Some enjoyable activities are even helpful for your joints, such as walking, swimming, and light gardening.

Take steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

  • Losing weight not only helps you look better, it helps you—and your joints—feel better. Reducing weight helps take stress off joints and reduces pain. A healthy weight also can help you prevent other serious medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • Eat a varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. Make sure you are getting enough vitamin C and calcium. Ask your health care provider if you think you are not getting sufficient vitamins and minerals.
  • Quit smoking. Not only will you feel better, but also you will be reducing your risk of complications of rheumatoid arthritis. You will also be reducing your risk of lung cancer, emphysema, and other breathing problems.

Get the most out of your treatment.

  • Take your medications as directed by your health care provider. If you think a medication is not working or is causing side effects, talk to your health care provider before stopping the medication. Some medications take weeks or even months to reach their full benefit. In a few cases, stopping a medication suddenly can even be dangerous.
  • Help yourself. If you feel tired and achy, a warm bath before bed can help you relax and feel better. Massages feel good and may help increase your energy and flexibility. Apply an ice pack or cold compress to a joint to reduce pain and swelling. (Keep a reusable ice pack in your freezer or try a bag of frozen vegetables!)

Prevention

There is no known way to prevent rheumatoid arthritis, although progression of the disease usually can be stopped or slowed by early, aggressive treatment.

Homeopathic treatment:

RA being a constitutional disease that is auto immune in nature, calls for constitutional medication. Homoeopathy offers excellent treatment for the cases of RA, especially for those who have not developed joint deformities. The pain control is very effective with homeopathy and this is without any side effects whatsoever. The treatment can also have a role to play in controlling the progress of the condition to some extent and in delaying the onset of complications. Homoeopathy is very strongly suggested for all cases of Rheumatoid Arthritis.