Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Guide to Symptoms and Treatment | Better You RX

Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Guide to Symptoms and Treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory ailment that affects the joints, causing discomfort, swelling, and stiffness. Patients may experience limitations in their mobility, particularly in areas like the wrists, fingers, and knees. In rare cases, this condition can extend its impact to the eyes or even internal organs like the lungs and brain.

The underlying cause of rheumatoid arthritis lies in the immune system, which mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues and organs. Some factors have been identified as high risk for its development:

  1. Genetic Factors: Variations in specific genes, like “cathepsin K,” are associated with triggering rheumatoid arthritis. These genetic predispositions can be inherited from parents.
  2. Gender: Women are more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis than men, influenced by hormonal differences.
  3. Age: Onset is most common between 40 and 50 years of age, with higher vulnerability observed in individuals over 60.
  4. Weight: Overweight individuals face a higher risk due to larger fat deposits, enabling more storage of type II collagen. Additionally, rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to both weight gain and weight loss.
  5. Smoking: Smokers are twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis due to nicotine’s strong inflammatory response.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can manifest in various ways:

  1. Joint Pain: Chronic pain in joints like wrists, fingers, elbows, and knees, caused by cartilage damage.
  2. Swelling: Painful swelling, particularly in wrists, fingers, and knees, visible in early stages due to joint inflammation (synovitis).
  3. Eye Discomfort: Red, watery eyes and inflammation of the eyelids, indicating possible spread to other body parts.
  4. Cardiovascular Issues: High cholesterol levels, artery plaque build-up, and blood vessel damage leading to cardiovascular diseases.
  5. Muscle and Chest Wall Pain: Inflammation of muscles and tendons causing muscle pain, and inflammation affecting chest wall muscles.
  6. Appetite and Weight Changes: Loss of appetite due to fatigue and joint pain, weight loss from muscle wasting, or bone deterioration, and potential weight gain from symptoms and medications.
  7. Skin Changes: Redness and swelling on the face and neck, hand swelling due to tendon and ligament damage, and skin rashes from joint-related inflammation.
  8. Kidney Problems: Kidney stones, scarring, and inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis or its connection to lupus erythematosus.
  9. Fatigue: Fatigue associated with pain and tiredness, sometimes leading to sleep disturbance.
  10. Cognitive Deficiency: In rare cases, rheumatoid arthritis may cause cognitive impairment or symptoms of psychosis, particularly in the elderly.

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis involves a range of options:

  1. DMARDs: Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), like methotrexate and sulfasalazine, help manage symptoms and reduce inflammation.
  2. Physical Therapy: Exercise, heat treatment, massage, and electrical stimulation to improve mobility, reduce pain, and prevent joint damage.
  3. Surgery: Removal of bone spurs or non-functional cartilage, realignment of bones, and percutaneous vertebroplasty.
  4. Diet: Specific diets like the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) or general dietary adjustments to manage symptoms.
  5. NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen for pain and inflammation relief, used cautiously due to side effects.
  6. Biologics: Immunosuppressants like anti-TNF alpha drugs (TNF inhibitors) to reduce immune system attacks on joints.

Living with rheumatoid arthritis requires careful management, and various treatments can significantly improve the quality of life. Remember, seeking medical advice and guidance tailored to individual needs is essential in effectively managing this condition.

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