Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that leads to the chronic inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. It is an auto immune disease where the body's cells are attacked by its own immune system. Rheumatoid arthritis patients may not experience any symptoms for a long period even though it lasts for years.
Chronic rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent joint destruction and deformity. The exact cause of this rheumatoid arthritis is not clearly understood but it is known to affect people of all ages. It is suspected that environmental factors or infections trigger the immune system of the body.
Symptoms and signs of rheumatoid arthritis:
Depending on the degree of inflammation, the symptoms may come and go. The intensity of the disease varies depending on the degree of inflammation. The disease is active when the body tissues are active and the disease is inactive (in remission) when the inflammation subsides. When the disease is active, symptoms include the following:
- Loss of energy and appetite
- Muscle and joint aches
- Low grade fever
- Stiffness of joints (more noticeable in the morning)
Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis:
There is no cure for this disease. But the treatment plan involves reducing the pain and inflammation of the joints, maximizing the functionality of the joints, and preventing joint destruction and deformity. Treatment for arthritis involves usage of various medications, rest, exercise to strengthen the joints, and educating the patient about the disease.
The arthritis treatment usually entails a combination of drug therapy and non drug therapies that will control the inflammation of the joint and minimize joint damage. In some case, surgery may be required.
Also the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis should be tailored to individual patients needs. This includes the severity of the condition, effectiveness of particular therapies, side effects etc. Also if the person suffering from rheumatoid arthritis is suffering from any other ailments, then the treatment plan should be planned in a different manner. This usually happens with patients who suffer from kidney related problems.
Medications that are used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis includes:
- NSAID's which helps to reduce pain and inflammation of the joints. It does not reduce the long term effects of this disease. The side effects of these drugs should be weighed before it is taken.
- Disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs reduces inflammation, prevents damage to joints, preserve joint structure and functions and helps the patients to do their daily activities with ease.
- Biologic agents target the cells of the immune system, joints, secretions of the joints etc that causes inflammation and joint destruction. Since these fights with the immune system of the body, it should be used cautiously with patients who suffer from infections.
- Steroids have strong anti-inflammatory properties which has the potential to provide quick relief to rheumatoid symptoms.
Apart from medications, non pharmacological treatment for arthritis includes:
- Educating and counseling the patients about the disease. This will help the patient to understand about the disease and cope up with the challenges of the disease.
- Fatigue is a common symptom that is associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The inflamed joints should be given enough rest. This does not mean that physical fitness should be avoided.
- Exercise can help the patients to prevent and reverse the effects rheumatoid arthritis creates on the patient which includes loss of joint motion, loss of muscle strength, weakness, and contractions, reduces joint stability etc.
- Physical therapy like the application of heat or cold, ultrasound, passive and active exercises, finger splinting, relaxation techniques etc can help reduce pain and inflammation in patients with arthritis.
- Nutrition and dietary therapy will help patients suffering from this disease to adequate amount of nutrition and calories.
The use of both medications and other physical therapies provide some relief to patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. The best treatment plan should be first identified and then followed.