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Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic, autoimmune, inflammatory arthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks the synovium, a layer of tissue that lines the joints, causing painful swelling and inflammation that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. RA most often affects the joints of the hands and feet, although the inflammation can also affect other parts of the body, such as the skin, eyes, and blood vessels. According to the Arthritis Foundation, RA affects 1.3 million Americans, typically between the ages of 30 and 60.The CDC reports that as of 2009, arthritis and other rheumatic conditions (AORC) were the most common cause of disability among U.S. adults and had been for the previous 15 years. Out of those, RA was among the most debilitating; accounting for 22% of deaths due to AORC. People with RA are two times more likely to die than people of the same age without RA, though advancements in technology and research are producing promising treatment options.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the membranous lining of your joints, known as the synovium. When this happens the inflammation thickens the lining. Eventually this process destroys cartilage and soft tissue between the bones, resulting in bone to bone contact. The friction caused by bone to bone contact can cause damage to the bones, further inflammation in the joint, and severe pain with movement. The tendons and ligaments that hold the joint together also weaken and stretch. As the disease progresses, the joint may lose its shape and alignment.
B cells and T cells are components of the immune system that help create the inflammation typical of the rheumatoid arthritis. Both of these are lymphocytes, a classification of white blood cells. When a T cell discovers an antigen, it produces chemicals called cytokines. Cytokines make B cells proliferate and release antibodies to trigger inflammation intended to fight the intruders. However, this beneficial process goes awry in autoimmune disorders such as RA so that T cells and B cells fight the body itself rather than foreign antigens.
The precise cause of the auto-immune response behind rheumatoid arthritis remains unknown, but researchers suspect that several factors, alone or in combination, may trigger this autoimmune disease. These triggers include an abnormal autoimmune response, genetics, a viral infection and hormonal changes such as those that occur during perimenopause and menopause.
While scientists are unsure of what exactly causes the immune system to attack The following factors may increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis:
Since there is no one definitive test for rheumatoid arthritis, doctors rely on a combination of the following:
Imaging tests, including:
Symptoms of RA can vary from patient to patient and may be mild, moderate, or severe. The following symptoms may be signs of rheumatoid arthritis:
RA is a progressive disease. Over time it causes increased joint destruction and restricted movement. Symptoms can vary greatly among people and can often be controlled with treatment. According to the Arthritis Foundation, achieving arthritis remission may be well within the grasp of nearly half of the 1.5 million Americans with rheumatoid arthritis. The earlier you begin rheumatoid arthritis treatment, the better your odds are. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine, states that how well a person does depends on the severity of symptoms. People with rheumatoid factor, the anti-CCP antibody, or subcutaneous nodules seem to have a more severe form of the disease. People who develop RA at a younger age also seem to get worse more quickly.
The American College of Rheumatology offers the following tips:
There is no one blood test or physical finding to confirm an RA diagnosis. There are currently no tests that can accurately screen for rheumatoid arthritis in people who aren’t experiencing symptoms. RA is therefore not screened for by most primary care physicians. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of RA, schedule a visit with your doctor. He or she will be able to perform the appropriate diagnostic tests to determine whether or not you have the disease
There is no way to prevent RA but there are medications and treatments that may slow its progression and help reduce inflammation and pain.
There are several drugs available to help slow RA progression and lessen the severity of symptoms. As the disease progresses, you may require stronger doses or a combination of drugs.
Speak with your doctor about side effects of the following frequently prescribed medications:
o Arthroplasty (Total Joint Replacement) is a procedure in which damaged joints including hips, knees, and shoulders are excised and replaced with internal prostheses made of plastic and metal. Risks include infections, blood clots, and the possibility that the artificial joint may loosen over time so that another surgery is necessary. The failure rate for total hip replacements among women is higher than that among men, according to a study done at Southern California Permanente Medical Group, San Diego. Women with an average age of 66 made up 57.5% of the participants. After an average of three years following the operation, 2.3% of women and 1.9% of men underwent an additional surgery to correct a problem.
o Tendon Repair. If the whole joint does not need to be removed, doctors may choose to repair damaged tendons or remove portions of inflamed tissue or debris.
o Joint Fusion. Surgically fusing joints may be a favorable option for patients who do not need complete joint replacement but are in need of increased joint stability. This procedure is common in cases where RA affects the neck or joints, locations where joint replacement is not as accessible as in the knee or hips.
Patients with RA are not good candidates for osteotomy (bone realignment) of the knee, a procedure often used to treat osteoarthritis. RA patients are also not good candidates for partial knee replacements, another procedure often used to treat osteoarthritis.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), although some of these natural treatments, supplements and dietary choices may help RA, none of these approaches is fully grounded in science and many have not have been completely tested for side effects. Speak with your doctor before you use any of the following remedies
Call your doctor if:
If your doctor has diagnosed your condition as rheumatoid arthritis, you might be feeling anxious about your future. Knowledge is power so don’t be afraid to ask questions such as the following:
Flexable health– https://www.flexablehealth.com/pages/arthritis-resources
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