Here is what you must know about rheumatoid arthritis

Here is what you must know about rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) forces the body’s immune system to turn on itself and attack healthy joints. The attack results in inflammation, swelling, and pain around the tissue that cushion the joints. If left unchecked, persistent inflammation can damage the cartilage, cause the joints to lose stability, and seriously hamper one’s mobility over time.

Approximately 1.5 million people in the country suffer from this autoimmune disorder. While men are more prone to suffering from the illness, women between the ages of 30 and 60 must be more careful.

Common causes of RA
There is no known cause of RA. People with a family history of the condition are more susceptible to illness. The condition is simply an abnormal response of the immune system. Certain changes in one’s genes and hormonal levels coupled with environmental factors can trigger the inflammatory response.

Other possible factors that increase the chances of suffering from RA include:

  • Foreign infectious agents and bacteria
  • Obesity or being mildly overweight
  • Body’s responses to physical or mental trauma
  • Exposure to toxins and pollutants in the environment

Known symptoms
Rheumatoid arthritis predominantly affects the joints. Noticeable symptoms include:

  • Morning stiffness
  • Pain in multiple joints
  • Persistent tenderness, swelling, and stiffness

The autoimmune disorder is also known to simultaneously affect different systems and organs. The symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the inflammation.

  • RA can trigger increased sensitivity to light, dryness, pain, redness, and even result in vision problems.
  • The condition may result in small lumps under the skin, especially where there is a lot of bone.
  • Scarring and persistent inflammation may also cause one to experience shortness of breath.
  • Inflammation in the blood vessels can also damage the nerves and may result in anemia.

Stages of RA
Changes in the body during different stages are a common indicator of a developing rheumatoid arthritis condition.

  • Stage 1: Here, there is no damage to the bones. But one may experience joint pain, swelling, and stiffness along with inflammation.
  • Stage 2: In this stage, inflammation of the synovium (joint lining) can slowly result in cartilage damage.
  • Stage 3: In the more severe stages of the condition, there is cartilage and bone damage. Symptoms are quite severe with increased swelling, muscle weakness, and loss of mobility.
  • Stage 4: In stage 4 RA, the joints cease to function properly or are completely destroyed. There is a high chance of getting ankylosis (fusing of bones) at this stage.

Common treatment options
The first goal of treatment is to counter the inflammation. It is one of the major triggers of pain and discomfort, which is why the doctors will work towards reducing the inflammation. After this, RA treatment includes symptom relief, prevention of joint or organ damage, improving one’s physical function, and further reducing the risk of complications in the long term.

Medication for rheumatoid arthritis
Doctors will recommend medications that will help slow down the progression of this autoimmune disorder. Over-the-counter medications for pain relief include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

Alternatively, doctors can prescribe short term use of corticosteroids. These are highly potent and quick action anti-inflammatory medications, which is why they should not be taken for a longer duration. DMARDs and biologics are also prescription medications that can prove helpful for different levels of rheumatoid arthritis.

When the damage done to bone and vital tissue around the joints is quite severe, doctors may suggest surgery as a last resort. Surgery will help restore lost mobility and stability to improve one’s physical function. A joint replacement surgery will replace the damaged joints with plastic and metal parts. While hip and knee replacements are most common, surgery for RA can be done in the ankles, shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

The best foods to manage rheumatoid arthritis
The best way to manage rheumatoid arthritis is to plan a diet with foods rich in antioxidants to control and reduce inflammation. Here are a few great foods to try:

  • Fish
    Fish is naturally rich in Omega 3 fatty acids that help counter inflammation. Salmon, anchovies, sardines, and tuna are rich sources of Omega 3.
  • Colorful fruits and berries
    Blueberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, spinach, kale, and broccoli are foods loaded with antioxidants. A bowl full of these fruits and vegetables with each meal will significantly reduce the effects of inflammation.
  • Nuts
    One can have a handful of nuts including walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and almonds to counter inflammation. Nuts are rich in protein, fiber, and monosaturated fats that aid in weight loss simultaneously.
  • Beans
    Beans are rich sources of folic acid, essential minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds. One can have a cup of assorted pinto, black, red kidney, or even garbanzo beans twice a week to supplement the new diet.

One must avoid processed and unhealthy foods that are salty, fatty, and rich in sugars. Rheumatoid arthritis patients should keep a close watch on the sodium (salt) intake.

This article is for information purposes only. Always consult and seek the advice of your physician/licensed healthcare professional with any questions regarding a medical condition or medication.