Rheumatoid arthritis (known as RA) is a medical condition causing inflammation in many joints of the body, in particular RA affects hands, feet, wrists, ankles and knees. RA usually occurs symmetrically in the body.
How do you Know if You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis?
If you have symptoms and complain about your joints being painful and stiff, then see your GP.
Your GP will carry out history, examination and investigation.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
The symptoms patient complain about are principally in the joints as pain and stiffness, worse in the morning.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis RA is considered by doctors as an autoimmune condition, which is that the immune system targets and attacks the body including healthy tissue.
It is not known what triggers the immune system to react in this way. Since the immune system produces antibodies to attack bacteria and virus infection, possibly the immune system of Rheumatoid arthritis patients attack the joint lining causing damage to bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments. There are many theories on this process, which are all unproven.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed?
When you attend your GP may arrange a number of blood tests to help confirm the RA diagnosis.
Some of the main tests used include:
- full blood count for anaemia
- erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
other tests include rheumatoid factor RA but may be unreliable. 5% of the population will be tested RF positive despite not having RA.
Imaging may include
- X-rays – of your bones and joints
- ultrasound scans –
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans –
What is the Difference Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis?
The term arthritis has many different forms, of which the most common is osteoarthritis OA and then rheumatoid arthritis RA.
- Onset. Osteoarthritis OA process is the degeneration of the layer of cartilage on the bone surface, this is a chronic condition over many years. Rheumatoid arthritis RA is an inflammatory medical condition. The immune system of your body targets tissues in your joints which it attacks. Time frame of symptoms stiffness and pain may be over weeks or months.
- Location. Both osteoarthritis OA and rheumatoid arthritis RA can cause pain by affecting the hands. However, the difference is the joints affected: osteoarthritis OA affects the joint furthest away at the end of the finger, whereas rheumatoid arthritis usually spares this joint. And while rheumatoid arthritis can appear in any joint, its most common targets are the hands, wrists, and feet.
- Type of stiffness. Osteoarthritis OA commonly there is joint stiffness in the morning relieved by some activity, sometimes occurs later in the day after resting, then stiffness is again relieved by exercise. In rheumatoid arthritis RA, the symptom of joint stiffness in the morning does not begin to get better for 1-2 hours.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
there are various treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. The aim is to reduce the joint inflammation which in turn will reduce the pain, and then to reduce or prevent joint damage, reduce disability and encourage mobility an quality of life.
- encourage early treatment
- give support
- make lifestyle changes,
- review and monitor medication,
- supportive treatments
- surgery occasionally on the joints.
Medications can be used to help stop progress of rheumatoid arthritis
- disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
- biological treatments.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Prognosis
Doctors opinion that the most important aspects include that effective control of rheumatoid arthritis and provide the best prognosis:
- improves quality of life
- improves life expectancy.
- constant awareness of any new symptoms require investigation.
- stop smoking.
- maintain optimal weight.
- be active.
- maintain blood pressure.
- monitor cholesterol.