Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition where the body’s own immune system attacks itself. Our body immune system will usually produces anti-bodies for attacking foreign viruses and bacteria, and thus protects our body against any infection. But in those affected by Rheumatoid arthritis, the body-immune system will send antibodies to the joint lining, which actually attack the surrounding tissues and the synovium of the joint. The synovium of the joint is a thin layers of cells that cover our joints, but as the antibodies attack this membrane and synovium, they become inflamed and sore.
The inflammation process releases chemicals which both thickens the synovium and damages the cartilage, tendons, ligaments and bones. Repetitive flare ups eventually causes the joint to loose its normal alignment, congruency and shape.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
It is a progressive disease, initially starting in the smaller joints like toes and fingers and moving to larger joints bilaterally such knees and shoulders. Joints will feel hot, swollen, stif and appear red and may be the most painful in the mornings. A person will also complain of muscle tightness with symptoms varying from patient to patient. Often an individual will report flare ups in symptoms rather than a permanent pain, with flare ups becoming more frequent an intense as per the deterioration of the condition. The other symptoms include lining of blood vessels, lungs and heart, salivary and tear glands.
Rheumatoid arthritis is found more commonly amongst women because of the estrogen (a female hormone). Although not conclusively proven, research has shown estrogen to be a key hormone responsible for the progression and development of this disease. Genetic or hereditary transportation of the problem is also another cause.
Certain lifestyle habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption may make an individual more prone to the disease.
Treatment and care:
The main treatment of this Rheumatoid arthritis is to give patients relief from pain, reduce the inflammation in the joints and finally slow down & prevent damages to the joints. Different patients respond in different ways to these treatments. One of the best known drugs used for the treatment is Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). The drug is very helpful in easing the symptoms and slowing down the damage caused with the disease. The drug blocks the effects of the chemicals that damage the bones, cartilage, ligaments and tissues. Leflunomide, methotrexate, sulfasalazine and hydroxychloroquine are the different conventional DMARDS.