Around 24 million people around the world are affected by rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Still worse, this rare is are constantly growing. That is to say, 50 out of every 100,000 people develop this disease.
Wait a second! These figures are several times higher than some well-known diseases. We hear a lot about MS, Lupus, etc. but we know little about RA. While RA besides affecting people’s daily lives, can also lead to other dangerous diseases if left untreated.
That made me decide to write this article and focus on rheumatoid arthritis. In this post, I have tried to examine thoroughly all the topics related to rheumatoid arthritis. After reading this article, you can learn all about the symptoms, causes and complications of RA, and finally understand how to diagnose and treat it. So let’s get started.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the most common diseases of the body joints. For the moment, what exactly is a joint? To put it simply, the joint is actually the area where multiple bones meet. That is, the joints connect two or more bones close together and play the role of hinges for our bones.
To make the joints move smoothly and the bones not to wear away, there is a layer around the joints called the articular capsule or synovium. This layer acts as an oil for the joints so that joints can move smoothly and without any sounds in their place.
Therefore, with this background, it is easier to understand the meaning of rheumatoid arthritis: it occurs when the articular capsule is destroyed and the joints lose their function, causing the bones to wear away.
Rheumatoid arthritis is different from arthritis!
If you are a reader of our blog, you may remember that we have published an article about arthritis earlier. After knowing arthritis, you may have noticed that arthritis is very much like RA. However, there is a fundamental difference between these two diseases: arthritis causes joint problems with the loss of cartilage, and in rheumatoid arthritis, joint problems occurs with the wearing away of the articular capsule.
Cartilage and articular capsule have a similar function, both of which are components of the joints. Nevertheless, rheumatoid arthritis and arthritis are two different diseases. It depends on the examination of causes, symptoms, and complications of a joint problem in a person to determine whether he/she has arthritis or RA. My suggestion is to read the details of both diseases so that you can find out which one you have.
Rheumatoid arthritis: when the body scores an own goal!
Have you ever seen one of the players of your favorite football team score an own goal? If you’re a football fan and have seen the 1994 World Cup, you’ll probably remember the own goal by Colombian player Andre Escobar – a goal to his own goal that led to Colombia’s knockout and of course, his own murder!
Sometimes, body’s own organs mistakenly make irreparable damages that are a little difficult to recover or improve. It may be interesting to know that our immune system can make the same mistake! How?
Normally, the immune system seeks the body thoroughly, destroying harmful substances and organisms. However, sometimes it unknowingly attacks the body itself. In such circumstances, we say we have an autoimmune disease.
The most common autoimmune disease is rheumatoid arthritis; in RA, blood antibodies attack body tissue! The result of this attack is the loss of articular capsule and ultimately the joint fails.
Rheumatoid arthritis acts like a domino!
It may have happened to you that in some days, misfortune acts like a domino, something like forgetting to reply to a customer’s email, or complain to your manager. Then, when you try to solve the customer’s complaints, you forget to take the kids to the park and they’ll be annoyed, as well. You try to be a man of his word, but all happenings gets out of your control and happen one after another.
The same is true for rheumatoid arthritis: when someone develops this disease, several other organs of the body will be involved at the same time, and other domino-like diseases will occur. (Scientifically, these kinds of diseases are called systemic diseases.)
Articular rheumatism first occurs in small joints, such as fingers and toes. Then, it spreads to the ankle and wrist, and after a while, you’ll see its progress to the elbows, shoulders and buttocks. Of course, it doesn’t end there! After a while, the lungs, heart, and veins face more disorders.
Causes of rheumatoid arthritis
Well! Now that we’ve got some general information about rheumatoid arthritis, it’s time to look a little more closely to the subject. In this section, we want to know why this disease occurs. Understanding the causes of RA is important because you can find out whether you have the disease. To do this, you need to compare the causes of arthritis with your records. Below are some causes why RA happens.
• Genetics as the most important cause of arthritic rheumatism
In 2016, between 40 and 65 percent of people who developed the disease were suffering from genetic factors. A small study of these individuals concluded that if a close relative had joint rheumatoid arthritis, there was a 10% chance that he/she would develop the disease himself/herself.
• 80% of patients with arthritis rheumatism are between the ages of 35 and 50
The onset of the disease is more common in the fourth and fifth decade of a person’s life. However, if a youngster and teenager develop rheumatoid arthritis, it is more dangerous.
• Women are more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis
Women are two to three times more likely than men to get the disease! Of course, this isn’t just for RA; almost all autoimmune diseases occur more often in women.
• Drinking too much tea increases the possibility of developing arthritis rheumatism
Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center believe that drinking tea increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by 40%! In addition, those who drink more than four cups of tea a day are 78 percent more likely to get this disease.
• Lifestyle affects rheumatoid arthritis
May God save us from fat and cigarettes! There is no disease that fat and cigarettes cannot deteriorate or worsen their condition. Autoimmune diseases are not exceptions.
Get to know the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis occur in different ways and vary from one person to another. The reason is of this difference is clear: because the disease develops over time and has specific symptoms at each stage.
There is no definite pattern for the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms of this disease may recur for a long time or may occur shortly and over time. Even the area of the disease occurrence can vary.
So now, you might be asking, “so what should I do?” or “how can I know whether I have this God damn disease?” My suggestion is that if you experience any of the following symptoms, be sure to see a doctor so that he perform the diagnostic procedures for you.
• Dry joints for more than an hour in the morningh
This is a common sign among all people with rheumatoid arthritis. RA causes pain in your knees, elbows and lower back in the morning after waking up.
• Creation of bumps in the hands
Usually, both fingers swell after rheumatoid arthritis onset. This swelling usually occurs in the middle finger.
The part that swells is relatively soft, and in this condition, the swelling of the fingers is usually accompanied with a significant redness and a feeling of heat in the area.
• Swelling of the knuckles or joints
Swelling in at least one or more knuckles or small and large joint should be taken seriously and can be a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. Swelling of the larger joints such as the knee, ankle, shoulder, and elbow can be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis advancing.
• Feeling a small ball under your feet
People with RA feel something like a ball under their feet while walking. This is usually felt at the start of the day and when getting up from bed.
• Feeling bumps or lumps in elbow and toe
Small subcutaneous lumps are one of the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. These bumps usually occur on the elbows as well as the toes, and become more severe when exposed to external objects or wearing shoes.
• Fever and fatigue
Rheumatoid arthritis is usually associated with colds such as fever and chronic fatigue. In these conditions, the person thinks joint pain is because of common cold.
Take the complications of rheumatoid arthritis seriously
Let me reiterate this point to understand better the importance of this subject: When you see the signs of rheumatoid arthritis, be sure you take it serious. This is because rheumatoid arthritis can cause other diseases too (if you haven’t started reading this article from the beginning, you should know that RA is a systemic and autoimmune disease, so the body begins to damage its own organs).
Some of the complications that may occur after rheumatoid arthritis:
• Vision problems
Rheumatoid arthritis after a while may cause several eye diseases. Diseases such as episcleritis (which leads to burning and red eyes), scleritis (which greatly reduces vision) and … inflammation (which leads to dry eyes).
As we mentioned earlier, one of the symptoms of arthritis is rheumatic fever, fatigue and dizziness. This is due to anemia caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Thrombocytosis is a disease in which the number of red blood cells increases and this can include complications like stroke.
• Felty’s syndrome
This problem occurs when the spleen enlarges and the number of white blood cells decreases, so lymph node cancer may develop.
• Pulmonary Problems
Lung inflammation, pleurisy, lung tissue ulcer, pulmonary hypertension, can all develop after rheumatoid arthritis has advanced.
The risk of severe colds, flu and pneumonia are other diseases that occur after rheumatism.
• Emotional problems!
Approximately 11% of people with rheumatoid arthritis have severe symptoms of depression due to physical problems and limitations following rheumatism arthritis.
How can we know if we have rheumatoid arthritis?
It is difficult to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis in its early stages because it has many common symptoms with other diseases. You should go to an orthopedic specialist after you see the causes and symptoms of the disease. He can perform the diagnostic procedure on you.
Your doctor will use the following methods to diagnose your problem (depending on the severity and present symptoms):
• Blood tests
By taking blood tests, you can check the speed of red blood cells settlement. The higher the red blood cell settling rate, the greater the inflammation. The high levels of protein produced by the liver also confirm this. Anemia is another clear sign of the disease. High level of rheumatoid factor antibody is also directly linked to develop this disease.
• X-ray Imaging
To have a better diagnosis, the doctor needs to have a detailed image of our joints. Therefore, with x-ray imaging, he/she can quickly examine bones and joints and, if diagnosed, determine the rate of disease progression and rate of joint damage.
Through MRI, the doctor can quickly detect the area of joint damage and see to what degree a joint has been damaged. An MRI device uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce high-quality images of our bodies.
In this method, the articular fluid is removed with a sterilized needle and syringe and then is taken to the laboratory for examination. Sometimes, beside this method, they inject cortisone to reduce joint inflammation and other symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis treatment methods you should know
They treat rheumatoid arthritis to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, protect articular structures, maintain function and control systemic involvement. Here are some ways to treat the disease that your doctor will choose one of them:
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
These drugs are not easily prescribed by doctors because they have various side effects. However, when the pain is severe, your doctor will prescribe these medications for a short period to relieve your pain.
• Analgesics, creams or ointments containing menthol or capsaicin that contain spicy peppers.
• Immunosuppressive drugs
These drugs are generally used to treat major autoimmune diseases.
Exercise improves range of motion and the power of muscle-covering joints. In some cases, there is a need for splints.
• Joint replacement surgery
If the above methods don’t cure the disease, your doctor will try to replace the joint or weld the joint with surgery. Surgery may be recommended to move the joints and prevent joint damage. In surgery for rheumatoid arthritis, small damaged joints, such as fingers, are replaced with plastic materials.
The final word
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most painful diseases that disturb our daily activities and movements. So, before our joints start to wear away or break down, we need to be mindful of our bodies. As the age increases, the joints wear away and this can cause damage and problem if we neglect the joints.
If you are in a stage of rheumatism arthritis that it has become a little more serious and advanced, changing your diet and lifestyle can be very helpful in maintaining your body’s health and can prevent joint damage and more severe RA complications.
Have you ever experienced rheumatoid arthritis? If you have any questions or experiences, be sure to comment, we’ll be happy to hear your valuable comments.