Orthopedic Diseases

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)


  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, which attacks the joints, particularly in the hands, wrists, and knees. 
  • RA can also affect other tissues and cause problems in some organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.
  • It occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake.
  • The patient has times when symptoms increase, and times they decrease.
  • RA can be treated and managed with medications and surgery can be the last option.​

RA mainly attacks the joints, usually many joints at once. RA commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. In a joint with RA, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissue. This tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain. RA can also affect other tissues throughout the body and cause problems in organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.

The cause of RA is not yet fully understood, although doctors do know that an abnormal response of the immune system plays a leading role in the inflammation and joint damage that occurs. No one knows for sure why the immune system goes awry, but there is scientific evidence that genes, hormones and environmental factors are involved. Researchers pointed to other factors such as: bacterial infection or viral infection, obesity, the body’s response to stressful events such as physical or emotional trauma, exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution with insecticides and others and occupational exposures to mineral and silica.

Risk Factors:
  • Age, your risk for most types of arthritis increases as you get older.
  • Your sex, women are two or three times more likely to develop RA than men.
  • Genetics.
  • Smoking and secondhand smoking. 
  • Obesity.
  • Women who have never given birth.
With RA, there are times when symptoms get worse, and times when symptoms get better. Symptoms of RA include:
  • Joint pain, including swelling for six weeks or longer.
  • Joint stiffness for 30 minutes or longer.
  • Fatigue, fever and weight loss. 
  • Increased infection.
  • Dry mouth and eyes.
  • Visual impairment.
  • Small bumps under the skin. 
  • Pneumonitis.
  • Inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis).
When to see a doctor?
If you have pain or swelling in joints or the area around them. 
Rheumatoid arthritis has several physical and social effects:
  • Heart diseases.
  • Obesity.
  • Disability.
Because the signs and symptoms of RA are not specific and can look like signs and symptoms of other inflammatory joint diseases, diagnosis should be done by a rheumatologist. It is diagnosed by reviewing symptoms, conducting a physical examination, and doing X-rays and lab tests. It’s best to diagnose RA early, within 6 months of the onset of symptoms, so that people with the disease can begin treatment to slow or stop disease progression (for example, damage to joints).

The goals of rheumatoid arthritis treatment are to:
  • Stop inflammation, relieve symptoms and prevent joint and organ damage.
  • Improve physical function and reduce long-term complications. 
Your doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or drugs that slow disease or inhibitors. The last option is to have surgery.

  • Adopt healthy lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Regular physical activity for 150 minutes per week, like walking, swimming, or biking 30 minutes a day for five days a week. 
  • Check your bone density. 
Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis:
You should consult your doctor before you start working out. The following tips will help feel better:
  • Heat treatments, such as heat pads or warm baths, tend to work best for soothing stiff joints and tired muscles.
  • Topical treatments: These treatments are applied directly to the skin over the painful muscle or joint. Creams or sprays may also help relieve pain. 
  • Support and encouragement from friends. 
Myths & Truths:
  • Breastfeeding may cause rheumatoid arthritis?
Reality: Breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Last Update : 10 December 2019 01:42 PM
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