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|A shooting pain
in the knee. A burning sensation in the hand. Before you know
it, you have rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the joints. Rheumatoid
arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system
attacks normal tissues as if they were invading antibodies.
Rheumatoid arthritis also causes inflammation of the tissues
around the joints and other organs of the body. The hands and
feet are the most affected areas of rheumatoid arthritis
although it can also affect any joint lined by a membrane.
Rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systematic illness and
sometimes called rheumatoid disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis manifests itself over a period of a few months.
However, for some, the disease appears overnight. Accelerated
onset of rheumatoid arthritis does not mean the individual is at
greater risk of the progression of the disease. Rheumatoid
arthritis can lasts for years without symptoms. But rheumatoid
arthritis is an illness that progresses and has the potential to
cause joint destrution and functional disability. Usually,
patients suffer cycles from severe to light symptoms. In terms
of statistics, rheumatoid arthritis is three times more common
in women than in men. It also besets people of all races
equally. Rheumatoid arthritis can begin at any age but most
often start in the early forties.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis? The truth is, its cause is still unknown.
Viruses, bacteria, and fungi have long been suspected but none
has been proven to be the cause. The cause of rheumatoid
arthritis has been the focus of different research activities.
There are some scientists who believe that the tendency to
develop rheumatoid arthritis may be genetically inherited while
others believe that certain factors in the environment might
elicit the immune system to attack the body's own tissue
components. This attack results to the inflammation in various
organs such as lungs or eyes.
Researchers have also found that environmental factors may also play a role
in the cause of rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, scientists
reported that smoking tobacco increases risk in the development
of rheumatoid arthritis.
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis depend on the degree of tissue
inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is said to be active if the
body tissues are inflammed. When the tissue inflammation
subsides, rheumatoid arthritis is said to be in remission.
Remissions may happen spontaneously or with treatment and can
last for weeks, months, even years. During active rheumatoid
arthritis, symptoms are felt. Symptoms may include fatigue, lack
of appetite, low grade fever, and muscles and joint aches.
Muscles and joint stiffness are usually felt during mornings and
after a period of inactivity. During relapses (from inactivity
to activity) of rheumatoid arthritis, joints become red,
swollen, painful, and tender. This happens because the tissue
lining of the joints become inflamed which results in the excess
production of joint fluids.
Multiple joints are usually inflamed in symmetrical pattern and the joints
of both hands and wrists are often affected. Simple tasks such
as turning the door knob and opening the jars can be painful.
Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the joint responsible for
the tightening of vocal cords to change the tone of the voice
although rarely. But when this happens, it can cause hoarseness
of the voice.
As mentioned before, rheumatoid arthritis is a systematic disease which can
affect organs and areas of the body other than the joints.
Sjorgen's syndrome is the inflammation of the glands of the eyes
and mouth which causes dryness. Rheumatoid inflammation of the
lung lining can cause chest pains because the lung tissue itself
is inflamed and nodules of inflammation also develop within the
lungs. Rheumatoid arthritis can also reduce the number of red
blood cells which can result to anemia and white blood cells
which can result to increase risk of infections. A rare, serious
complication of rheumatoid arthritis is blood vessel
inflammation which can impair blood supply to tissues and lead
to death of tissues.
A rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in arthritis and other related
diseases. The rheumatologist reviews the history of symptoms,
examines the joints, and the other parts of the body for the
inflammation. The diagnosis is usually based on the pattern of
symptoms, the distribution of the inflamed joints, and the blood
and x-rays obtained.
Until now, there is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Reducing joint
inflammation and pain, maximizing joint function, and preventing
joint destruction is the current goal in treating rheumatoid
arthritis. Early medical intervention has been found to improve
outcomes in treatment. Optimal treatment includes combination of
medications, joint strengthening exercises, joint protection,
and patient education. Treatment is customized according to many
factors such as disease activity, types of joints involved,
general health, age, and occupation. But treatment is most
successful when there is close cooperation between the doctor
and the patient.
About the author:
Charlene J. Nuble 2005. For up to date links and information about
arthritis, please go to:
http://arthritis.besthealthlink.net/or for updated links and
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