All About Rheumatoid Arthritis: Symptoms, Risk Factors & Treatment
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic disorder that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness mostly in your joints but may affect other parts such as the eyes, skin, heart, and blood vessels. It is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when your immune system gets confused and mistakenly starts attacking your body’s healthy tissues, causing inflammation in the affected parts.
The disorder particularly affects the lining of your joints and gradually leads to bone erosion and joint deformity and when not diagnosed and treated, may cause physical disabilities.
When the inflammation subsides, the capsule around the synovium (the soft tissue that lines the spaces of joints) remains stretched and fails to hold the affected joints in their proper positions, making them unstable and causing dislocation.
Read Also: Everything You Need To Know About Arthritis
Signs & Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis change as the disease progresses. Besides varying with severity range, the symptoms may come and go and not remain constant after their onset.
The period wherein the intensity or activity of the disease increases is called flare; this period alternates with a period of relative remission wherein the symptoms subside. Here are some of the most common signs to watch out for:
- Fatigue or lack of energy and tiredness
- Loss of appetite
- Stiffness in joints, especially in the morning or after a period of inactivity
- Warm, inflamed, and swollen joints
- Joint pain
- Weight loss
- Dry eyes
- Chest pain
There have been several cases wherein patients do not experience any symptoms involving the joints at all. Some common parts that it affects include the skin, lungs, bone marrow, blood vessels, heart, eyes, salivary glands, and nerve tissues.
Risk Factors Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Some of the most common factors that can increase your susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis are as follows:
Sex: Past cases have shown that women are two to three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men.
Age: This chronic disorder can occur at any age, but most people are diagnosed with it in the middle age, between 40-60 years.
Weight: People who are overweight have a much higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than those with ideal or healthy body weight. You can check this by calculating your body mass index (BMI). The ideal BMI for an adult is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Family History: If your parents or any of your family members have the disorder, you have a higher risk for rheumatoid arthritis than those without any family history associated with the condition.
Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, particularly if you have a genetic risk factor as well.
Genetics: Although the genetic link is not identified, past observations have shown that a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as smoking and diet intake, increases the chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis in a person.
Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Depending upon the symptoms, your doctor will do a thorough physical examination and run various tests such as x-rays, scans, and blood tests for diagnosis. Since it involves several signs identical to other conditions, your doctor will recommend the following tests to rule out the other possible causes and conditions:
Scans: These include x-rays, ultrasound scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, the results of which are used to not only check damages or inflammation in the joints but also observe the development of the condition from its onset.
Blood tests: Since there is no single blood test to directly diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, there are several tests done to eliminate other possible diseases causing the symptoms. The most common blood tests are as follows:
C-Reactive Protein (CRP) test to check if the CRP level in your blood is higher than usual, causing the inflammation.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) to check if the red blood cells in your blood sink faster than usual in a test tube, causing inflammation.
Full Blood Count to measure if the number of red blood cells is lower than usual, which may mean lower iron content and anemia, which is common in people with RA.
Rheumatoid Factor & Anti-CCP Antibodies test to test if you are positive for both conditions, which are common in RA patients.
Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis alters depending on your symptoms. Our experts have listed some of the most common treatments below:
Medication: Prescribed medication comes in the form of four major groups of drugs- painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and steroids (also known as corticosteroids). Your doctor may prescribe you more than one drug at a time because different symptoms need to be effectively treated by different drugs, which are all registered under their corresponding generic names. Depending on the progression or regression of your condition, drugs may change.
Surgery: Some of the most common surgeries include Synovectomy, which removes affected synovium; Tendon repair surgery, to repair damaged tendon; and Joint replacement surgery, which involves replacing a joint with a prosthesis.
Therapy: These include Physiotherapy to improve your fitness and muscle- strength and make your joints more flexible; Occupational therapy, where your therapist will provide training and advice to help you protect your joints at home and work; and Podiatry, through which professional care will be provided to specially treat the disorders of your foot, joints, ankle, and lower extremity and ease the pain.
Self-care measures are vital for managing rheumatoid arthritis in your daily life. Your doctor will ensure the best care. From proper medication to planned therapy, our highly-trained specialist team at the Yashoda Institute for Bone, Trauma & Joint Replacement at Yashoda Hospital is not only here to give you the best care throughout your treatment but also is ready to deliver the best rehabilitation care even after your treatment, with close collaboration with the specialists at our Centre for Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine.
For any query on Rheumatoid Arthritis and its treatment, please feel free to book an appointment with our Orthopaedics specialists in Ghaziabad:
Dr. Vipin Tyagi is a distinguished alumnus of King George’s Medical College and specializes in Orthopaedics. With a career spanning Yashoda Hospital and global training, he’s performed over 20,000 surgeries, excelling in trauma, and joint replacements.
Dr. Ajay Panwar is a highly skilled Senior Consultant at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad. Dr. Panwar specializes in knee and joint replacement, orthopedic trauma, arthroplasty, and sports injuries. With over 30 years of experience, he is known for excellence in regular and challenging hip and knee replacement surgeries, achieving outstanding results.
Dr. Rahul Kakran is a leading orthopedic specialist at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad, Dr. Kakran brings over 11 years of expertise, focusing on fractures, dislocated joints, and spinal pathology. With extensive experience in minimally invasive spine surgeries and deformity correction, he has successfully performed complex procedures, including joint replacements and trauma management.