Reports suggest that nearly 41 people in every 100,000 are diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) every year. Besides, women are two to three times more likely to suffer from RA as compared to men.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
One of the most common autoimmune diseases, Rheumatoid Arthritis is diagnosed as inflammation in joints. In some cases, the condition can even lead to the breakage of joints.
It is noteworthy that RA is likely to damage joints on both sides of the body. To put this into perspective, if your right arm or leg is affected by RA, it is very likely that the left one might also be affected. This is one of the primary ways doctors distinguish between RA and other types of arthritis.
Though there are plenty of treatment options for RA, they work best when the condition is diagnosed early. Thus, it is vital to identify the signs.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation and pain in joints. Usually, these signs appear when the condition exacerbates.
While at times, the symptoms may flare up, on others they may disappear completely.
Nonetheless, the common symptoms that can help identify RA early include:
- Joint pain
- Swelling in joints
- Stiffness in joints
- Loss of functioning of joints
- Deformities in joints
It is worth noting that the symptoms may vary from mild to severe. Regardless of the intensity of the symptoms, it is recommended not to ignore them. As already mentioned, early diagnosis can help improve the effectiveness of the treatment.
Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Though the symptoms may indicate the onset of RA, it is still necessary to get the condition diagnosed under medical supervision. Diagnosis of RA may take time and require multiple clinical tests.
Your doctor may ask you several questions about your symptoms and your medical history. Apart from this, they may also begin with a physical examination at first. The standard procedure typically involves looking for swelling and redness in joints, examining the range of motion, checking for tenderness in joints, and testing your reflexes and muscle strength. If your condition is suspected to be RA, your doctor may then refer you to a specialist – a rheumatologist.
As already mentioned, diagnosing RA may take a lot of time and several tests to confirm. Your rheumatologist may request you to get imaging tests to support the initial diagnosis. For example, they may request an X-Ray, an MRI, or an Ultrasound imaging test. The test should be able to show any joint damage along with the severity of the damage caused.
Apart from physical or imaging tests, your rheumatologist may also request you to get a blood test. The idea is to detect compounds that are produced during flares of exacerbations or periods of remission. Some of the blood tests that your doctor may request include the Rheumatoid Factor Test, Anti-CCP, CCP Antibody Test, Antinuclear antibody test, Erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and C-reactive protein test.
Apart from these common examinations, some other tests to monitor other organs may also be requested by your doctor.
Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Before we move any further, it is worth mentioning that there is no cure for RA. However, there are treatments that may help manage the condition.
Loss of motion is notably a symptom of RA, however, assisted physical movements may help improve the condition. For example, low-impact exercises can increase mobility and improve the range of motion in your joints. Likewise, you can also consider vibration plate health benefits for relieving pressure from the joints. Besides, ample rest and heat therapies can further alleviate the inflammation.
There are plenty of over-the-counter medicines available for RA. Some of them work on the inflammation caused during flares, others work on limiting the damage it causes to the joints. Nonetheless, you should still consult with your physician before using any such OTC medication for your condition.
In addition to physical movements and medications, you can also consider some dietary changes to help improve the condition. Your dietician or rheumatologist may suggest foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Notably, omega-3 fatty acid-rich food sources make up an anti-inflammatory diet. Foods like chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, fatty fishes, are top-shelf sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Besides, food sources containing antioxidants may also prove helpful in relieving the agony. In a nutshell, you should be avoiding trigger foods such as protein, and choosing food sources that help alleviate your condition should be prioritized.
Types of Rheumatoid Arthritis
On this note, it is worth mentioning that there’s no one type of RA. Depending upon the diagnosis, your doctor may conclude you have one of the three types.
If your rheumatoid factor blood report is positive, you may have Seropositive RA. It means that your body is producing antibodies that are causing your immune system to attack your joints. Seropositive RA usually runs in families, meaning they may be hereditary.
In case, your rheumatoid factor test results negative and you still have symptoms, you might be suffering from Seronegative RA. Eventually, your body may develop antibodies turning your test results to Seropositive.
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
This condition usually refers to RA in children 17 years of age or below. The symptoms and diagnosis are usually the same as those in adults, but may sometimes also include eye inflammation and problems in physical development.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic disease, with no known cure at the time. However, there are treatments to help alleviate the condition and improve the quality of life for the patients.
The condition usually worsens over time and symptoms become more severe. In some cases, the symptoms may disappear for a long time, but it does not mean that the damage caused can be reversed. The current treatment options only help slow down the damage.
If you suspect any of the symptoms, as mentioned above, we recommend you consult with your doctor. As already mentioned, early diagnosis can help you live out your life with more ease and better life quality.