Early diagnosis and treatment can help you keep rheumatoid arthritis away

Dr. Sangita Satyamurthy, Consultant – Rheumatology, Columbia Asia Hospital Whitefield

Health is wealth, goes a wise old saying as nothing is more valuable than your own health, nothing can replace a healthy body and nothing remains of any utility if the body is not doing well.

Arthritis is one such illness that takes a serious toll on one’s body and largely disrupts life. One of the most common type of arthritis has been observed to be rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is a form of autoimmune arthritis. Caused when the immune system is not functioning properly, RA leads to pain and swelling in the wrist and small joints of hand and feet.  This makes life an everyday challenge for the people suffering from RA as everyday work is hindered.

As stated above, rheumatoid arthritis affects joint linings, which causes painful swelling. Starting from the joints, it can slowly affect the entire body. Over long extended periods of time, the inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.

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The joint damage that rheumatoid arthritis causes usually happens on both sides of the body. So, if a joint is affected in one of the arms or legs, the same joint in the other arm or leg is likely to be affected too.

There’s no particular cure for rheumatoid arthritis yet, but physiotherapy and medication can help slow down the disease from progressing. Early diagnosis is key to the treatments of rheumatoid arthritis. Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis can cease joint pains, swelling and even prevent joint damage but early treatment ensures long-term results. Symptoms can vary in severity.

Some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:

  • Warm, tender, swollen and stiffness of joints, usually worse in the mornings and after inactivity
  • Fever, fatigue and loss of appetite
  • RA intends to affect smaller joints initially, specifically the joints existing in fingers and toes.
  • As RA progresses, it often spreads to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders.

Rheumatoid arthritis is noted as a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting many joints. In more serious cases, RA can also attack the internal organs. RA can sometimes also affect many non-joint structures like:

  • Skin
  • Eyes
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Salivary glands
  • Nerve tissue
  • Bone marrow
  • Blood vessels

During persistent swelling and discomfort in the joints, one must visit the doctor. Getting the help of a rheumatologist is important as correct diagnosis is necessary.

Some of the home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis can be changes in the lifestyle like:

  • Take enough rest: Rest is especially important during flare-ups. Getting sufficient amount of sleep helps in reducing inflammation, pain as well as fatigue.
  • Apply heat or cold: Cold compresses or ice packs help in reducing pain and inflammation. They have also been observed to be effective against muscle spasms and stiffness
  • Try assisting device: Some devices like splints and braces can hold your joints in a resting position. This even helps in reducing inflammation.
  • Crutches and canes have been a good aid in maintaining mobility, even during flares.
  • Doing low-impact exercises regularly like walking, and exercises can enhance muscle strength and also help in improving the overall health as well as reduce pressure on joints.

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