Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic inflammatory
disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally
attacks the joints producing an inflammatory synovitis that often
progresses to destruction of the articular cartilage and ankylosis of
What causes Rheumatoid arthritis?
The exact reasons why you may develop RA aren't fully understood at
present. There are a number of things that seem to be involved. Women
are nearly three times more likely to get RA than men. Symptoms tend to
improve during pregnancy, suggesting that hormones and the immune system
may be involved. It's possible that RA is triggered by an infection or
virus, but there isn't any evidence to prove this.
Having certain genes makes it more likely that you will get RA, and the
disease runs in some families. Lifestyle factors may also increase your
risk, for example, if you smoke or are obese.
How is Rheumatoid arthritis treated? A-Non surgical treatment: Self-help :There are things you can do to help ease the symptoms
of RA: ► Find a balance between exercise and rest.
It's important to exercise to stop your joints from becoming weak and
stiff but don't do too much. Swimming is excellent because it
strengthens your muscles and joints without putting any strain on them.
A physiotherapist can tailor a program to suit you. ► Losing excess weight will reduce the
pressure on your joints. ► An occupational therapist can suggest ways
of making everyday tasks easier and may be able to provide you with
specialist equipment. ► Eat a healthy, balanced diet and cut down
on saturated fats. ► Use a splint on the affected joint and
rest it during a flare-up.
There is limited evidence that taking certain food supplements can
help RA. These include: ►Omega-3 fatty acids - found in oily fish
such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, and some plant seed oils and nuts
borage seed oil evening primrose oil
Medicines No medicine can cure RA, but there are many that can help
symptoms. ► Painkillers such as
paracetamol may help to relieve pain and stiffness. ►Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs) reduce symptoms of inflammation, relieving pain and swelling.
► Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) slow down the
progression of RA and ease its symptoms. They can take several months to
work so it's important to continue taking them. You may need to try one
or more. ► Biological medicines made from animal or human proteins block the
progress of RA in your immune system. You may be eligible to try these
if other medicines haven't helped your symptoms.
As medical treatments have improved it's now less likely that you
will need surgery to treat RA. However, if you have severely damaged
joints and medicines haven't helped, your doctor may recommend one of
the following operations to reduce pain and discomfort.
► A hip or knee replacement. ► Synovectomy to remove the lining of an
inflamed joint. ► Removal or repair of severely inflamed
tendons. ► Surgery to fuse a joint to make it more