Rheumatoid arthritis is chronic inflammatory disorder which in most cases affects the small joint in your feet and hands. This disorder affects the lining of the joints, causing a painful swelling which may over time result in joint deformity and bone erosion.
Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the immune system attacks by mistake its own body’s tissues, such as eyes, lungs, skin and blood vessels. This disorder is much more common in women, and although it can occur at any age, it typically begins after age of 40. Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis focuses on preventing joint damage and controlling symptoms.
This disorder happens when the immune system attacks the lining of the membranes which surround the joints – synovium. As a result, inflammation thickens the synovium, that may eventually destroy the bone and cartilage within the joint. The ligaments and tendons which hold the joint together stretch and weaken and over time the joint loses its alignment and shape.
It is still unknown what starts this process, but a genetic component might play a role. Although your genes don’t necessarily cause this disorder, they can make you more susceptible to environment factors. One of these factors can be infection with certain bacteria and viruses which can trigger the disease.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of this disorder are fatigue, fever, weight loss, firm bumps of tissue which are located under the skin on the arms, morning stiffness which can last for hours, and tender, warm and swollen joints. Early stage of rheumatoid arthritis first affects the smaller joints (Particularly the joints which attach the fingers to the hands and the toes to the feet.
Symptoms usually spread to the knees, elbows, ankles, hips, wrists and shoulder, as the disease progresses. Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can vary in severity and can even come and go. Flares, periods of increased disease activity, alternate with periods of relative remission when the pain and swelling disappear or fade. This disorder can cause joints to deform and shift out of place.
Rheumatoid arthritis has no cure. However, some medications can reduce inflammations in your joints and relieve pain and prevent or even slow joint damage. Physical and occupational therapy can show you how to protect the joints. Surgery can be necessary if your joints are severely damaged by this disorder.
There are potential serious side effects by many drugs which are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. If your disease progresses, you may need combination of drugs or stronger drugs. Some of the medications which your doctor may prescribe are NSAIDs, steroids, DMARDs (Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs), and biologic agents.
Your doctor may appoint you to a therapist who can show you exercises to keep your joints flexible and suggest new ways to do your daily tasks, which will be easier on your joints. Your doctor may also consider surgery in order to repair damaged joints, in case medications fail to prevent or slow joint damage.
Your ability to use your joint may be restored by surgery. Surgery can also correct deformities and reduce pain. Rheumatoid arthritis surgery can include one or more of the procedures, such as joint fusion, tendon repair, and total joint replacement. Discuss the benefits and risk with your doctor, since the surgery carries a risk of bleeding.