What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, degenerative disease that causes inflammation in the joints. The areas most affected by this type of rheumatism are the wrists, fingers, toes, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Inflammation of the joint causes pain, deformity and difficulty in movement, as the cartilage wears away and the bones it separates rub against each other. The cause of this disease is unknown and there is currently no possible cure. The damage produced in the bone and cartilage is irreparable, therefore the treatment of this pathology seeks to alleviate the pain and disability of patients, in addition to preventing permanent damage to the affected joints.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects the joints of both parts of the body equally. The fingers, wrists, knees, knees, feet, elbows, ankles, hips and shoulders are the parts that suffer the most and with the greatest frequency. The disease starts slowly and the first symptoms are mild joint pain, stiffness and fatigue. Other symptoms include: morning stiffness, lasting more than one hour. As for the joints, they may experience heat, weakness or be tender and stiff when not used for a period of time. Joint pain may be identical in the same joint on both sides of the body. The joints may sometimes be swollen. Over time the joints may lose their range of motion and become deformed.
Other symptoms include:
- Chest pain when breathing (pleurisy).
- dry eyes and mouth (Sjögren’s syndrome)
- Burning, itching and discharge through the eye
- Nodules under the skin
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Difficulty sleeping
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be quite varied.
Medical tests for rheumatoid arthritis
There is no single test that can diagnose 100% whether or not a patient has rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, at the end of the medical tests some people achieve results within the normal range, while the majority of patients with rheumatoid arthritis may have abnormal results in some medical tests.
There are two essential laboratory tests that are often positive and help most people find appropriate treatment.
- Rheumatoid factor
- Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies.
There are other types of tests such as:
- Complete blood count
- C-reactive protein
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
- X-rays of the joints
- Fluid analysis
What causes rheumatoid arthritis?
They are not yet known. It is an autoimmune disorder and its origin involves: Genetic factors: family history is more likely to develop the disease. Non-genetic factors: such as infections, female hormones, smoking, stress, obesity and type of diet.
Can it be prevented?
At present there is no specific form of prevention. However, there are some risk factors such as cigarette smoking, or chronic gum infections can aggravate rheumatoid arthritis, so it is important to avoid smoking and maintain good health of teeth and gums. Correct and personalized treatment can make it easier to prevent joint damage.
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis
In many cases this disease requires a long treatment. This may include:
- Medications of different types
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Biological agents
- Joint protection techniques
- Heat and cold treatments
- Splints or orthopedic devices to support and align the joints.
- It is advisable to sleep 8 to 10 hours a day, and also to take frequent breaks between activities.
- Removal of the joint lining
- Total arthroplasty in extreme cases, may include total knee replacement and hip arthroplasty.
What specialist treats you?
The rheumatologist is the specialist who treats rheumatoid arthritis. Top Doctors offers the patient any kind of information in order to facilitate the booking of the patient’s appointment. They will be able to choose the specialist that best suits their needs on-line.