Symptoms and Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Posted on 28. Oct, 2012 by in General Health Concerns

More than an hour of joint stiffness after waking up in the morning, warm and tender muscles after an extended period of not using them, and joint pains usually felt in the knees, wrists, ankles, and fingers. These are some of the most prominent symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. But what is rheumatoid arthritis, and are there ways of treating it?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that usually affects joints and surrounding tissues, as well as other body organs. Autoimmune disease means that the body’s immune system itself is mistaking healthy tissues as damaged or dangerous ones, thereby attacking them.  While the disease is not exclusive to a certain gender or age group, studies have found that women who are middle-aged are the ones who usually feel the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Once the disease is there, it never goes. It can only be inactive, the periods of time when the tissue inflammation subsides. These inactive periods, or remissions, generally occur during treatment and can last anywhere from a week to a year. When the patient relapses, or the disease becomes active once more, the symptoms return. The pattern of relapse and remission varies depending on the patient.

Joint pains occur because of the inflammation of the synovium, or the tissue surrounding the joints. This results in excess production of joint or synovial fluid. Other than joint pain, other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include chest pains while breathing (also called pleurisy), burning or itchy eyes, dryness in the eyes and mouth (Sjorgen syndrome), and sleeping difficulties. When the disease is active or in relapse, symptoms may include loss of appetite, fatigue, and low grade fever. Symptoms also often occur symmetrically or o both sides of the body. This means that pain on one hand may be mirrored on the other.

There are tests available out there for determining whether one is indeed suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. It has to be noted though, that these tests are not entirely accurate by themselves. Instead, various factors, additional tests, and symptoms are taken into consideration before a diagnosis can be given. An examination of the patient’s symptoms happen first, along with the doctor examining for joint deformities and rheumatic nodules, which are firm bumps in the skin usually located near the elbows and fingers. After this, blood tests and X-rays, MRIs or ultrasound are obtained. Diagnosis depends on frequency of symptoms, degree of inflammation, and results of blood tests and X-rays.

There are no known cures for rheumatoid arthritis just yet. Medications given to those diagnosed with the disease include those that will address the inflammation and pain. Early diagnosis and medical intervention have also shown positive results in reducing symptoms.  Besides this, regular and joint-strengthening exercise is recommended. For extreme cases, surgery may be done to repair damaged joints or bring back joint mobility. Destroyed joints may also be replaced by artificial materials such as plastic or metal.

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