What is Rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis

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 the joints.

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.

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.
B-Surgical treatment:
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 stable.