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Rheumatoid Arthritis - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Medications

09 February, 2021 Sanjana Patel

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, causing a chronic, long-term inflammatory ailment. An autoimmune disease is where the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy cells of the body. In case of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the immune system falsely ends up attacking the Synovium of the human body - the Synovial Membrane is a connective tissue that works as a lineament that compasses the joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a type of arthritis that doesn't just affect one's joints but can also harm other human body systems like the eyes, heart, blood vessels, lungs, skin, etc. There are many types of existing Arthritis, the most common one being Osteoarthritis as Rheumatoid seconds it. Osteoarthritis occurs due to the damage caused through dilapidation or the overuse in common terms "wear and tear" of the joints, whereas Rheumatoid leads to inflammation which causes throbbing or swelling of the joints and the synovium and gives rise to conditions like joint deformity or bone erosion.

Rheumatoid arthritis, if not treated on time can turn serious and may cause physical disabilities in one. It usually occurs on both the sides of the body of the affected joints, another factor which separates Osteoarthritis from Rheumatoid.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • Morning Stiffness - gets better with 30 minutes plus movement
  • Joint Stiffness after long periods of Immobility
  • Sensitive Joints
  • Inflamed or Swollen Joints
  • Symmetry - Pain & redness on both the sides of the affected joints
  • Rigidity in the joints of the fingers and toes - an early symptom
  • Ache spreads to the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, etc.
  • Accumulation of fluids in the ankles
  • Loss of Functioning
  • Numbness or Tingling of the Joints
  • Dryness and Irritation of the Eyes
  • Eye Discharge
  • Parchedness in the Mouth
  • Fatigue and Dehydration
  • Skin Nodules
  • Low-Grade Fever
  • Loss of Appetite and Sleep
  • Malaise
  • Chest pain and Inflammation in the lungs

Study reveals that around 30-40% of people suffering from Rheumatoid do not experience signs which include the joints but highly affects the non-joint structure of the human body like the:

  • Skin
  • Eyes
  • Salivary Glands
  • Lungs
  • Hearts
  • Blood vessels
  • Nerve Tissue
  • Bone Marrow
  • Kidneys

The Symptoms may vary in severeness and fluctuate in frequency.

Causes or Risk Factors of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

1. Genetic - Rheumatoid Arthritis just like many other ailments can be inherited but unlike other diseases here the factors which cause or could trigger the Rheumatoid Arthritis are genetically transferred. A specific gene HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) could worsen one’s RA.
2. Gender - Women are more susceptible and vulnerable to Rheumatoid Arthritis than Men.
3. Age - RA can occur at any age unlike Osteoarthritis which affects people above the age of 40-45, but Rheumatoid is more likely to occur in the early to mid-20s and can elevate from thereon.
4. Smoking - Smoking Cigarettes has always been deemed threatening to life. Smokers are at a greater risk of contracting Rheumatoid Arthritis. Also, people with the genetic trait of triggering RA and with a smoking habit could just boost the Arthritis severity.
5. Environmental Exposures - Exposure to certain substances at an early age could raise the danger of one’s getting RA. Exposure to the smoke of the cigarette, children of labourers who have grown up around construction sites, exposure to asbestos, silica, etc.
6. Obesity - People who are obese or are suffering from obesity are at risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis.
7. History of Viral Infections - Like Epstein-Barr Virus, which could further cause Mononucleosis could damage the immune system, triggering the autoimmune disease.
8. History of Bone Injury or Trauma - Previous Injury, joint dislocation, ligament damage, etc. could increase one’s chances of getting RA.

Treatment & Medications of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

There is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis, yet. But medical science has found ways by which you can prevent the damage Rheumatoid can do to your body and subside the inflammation and pain in the joints.

Lifestyle Changes

Making Changes in your lifestyle like doing basic exercises recommended by the doctor in concern, helps one maintain a steady and healthy weight and lowers the strain on the nether part of the body. Having a balanced and nutritional diet is essential which adds more to your bones and joints.

Medications for Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Here are few of the most prescribed medications by doctors and orthopaedics:

1. NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs): Used to reduced swelling and inflammation. Mostly, ibuprofen and naproxen, etc.
2. DMARDS (Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs): Used to weaken the immune system to stop attacking the healthy cells, methotrexate, etc.
3. JAK Inhibitors - Tofacitinib is effective.
4. Biologics - Humira, Amjevita, Rituxan, etc.
5. Steroidal Drugs: NSAIDs and DMARDs take time to show its effects while Steroidal Medications can take effect quickly and lessen the inflammation.

All of the above drugs are medications are to be taken only with proper doctor’s prescription and advisory.


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