Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Overview
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes constant inflammation of one’s joints that can lead to debilitating pain. In addition to the pain and discomfort caused by RA, the condition can also cause damage to the joints by wearing down the cartilage and even the bones located in the affected areas. There is currently no cure for RA, but some patients have reported going for as long as several years without experiencing any symptoms. The disease is considered to be debilitative and typically worsens over time. Surprisingly, the amount of damage to the joints is not always indicated by the severity of the pain that the patient experiences.
It is not known what triggers RA but there are some environmental factors that are believed to have some impact either on the onset of RA or its intensity. Smoking has been linked to the start of RA, and exposure to certain minerals such as silica can also play a part. Chronic gum disease is another common indicator that appears in RA sufferers. If you are experiencing unexplained joint pain (not caused by an injury, etc.) you may want to visit your doctor so that you can rule out Rheumatoid arthritis as the cause.
There are numerous signs and symptoms of RA and if you are experiencing these, it is a good idea to see your doctor promptly to begin treatment. Complicating the diagnosis and treatment of RA is the way that the disease manifests with periods when the symptoms followed by a period of remission. Remission can occur spontaneously or with treatment, but even after a period of years, patients have had the symptoms reappear. Fatigue, loss of energy and appetite are the big three ailments that most RA patients experience. Other signs can range from a low-grade fever to muscle and joint pain and stiffness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to have them checked immediately.
Currently, the treatment goals of RA are to reduce inflammation and pain in the joints while also preventing further damage and deterioration to the body. The best treatment outcomes occur with early detection where the ailment is immediately and proactively managed. Aspirin and cortisone are used to help manage pain, while methotrexate helps to encourage remission while preventing further joint damage. Many patients are able to manage their symptoms with rest and simple anti-inflammatories when they are experiencing a flare in between remissions. For more severe cases a combination of both anti-inflammatories and stronger drugs such as methotrexate is used.
There is encouraging data emerging from recent studies that are exploring the connection between the stomach and RA, in which modifications of the patient’s eating habits have shown some success. If you are experiencing RA symptoms it is imperative that you see your doctor right away as early detection and treatment have shown a positive effect on patients’ quality of life. While there is no cure for RA there are treatments available that have allowed people to enjoy full and active lives while living with the disease.