Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory illness caused by an autoimmune disease. It manifests mainly in the joints, causing pain, swelling, and rigidity.
As with all the autoimmune diseases, the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown at the moment, but theories suggest it comes from the interaction of different factors, such as a genetic predisposition (scientists believe that it is a polygenetic disease; that is, there are many different genes responsible), infections, and environmental factors such as smoking, stress, and more.
Rheumatoid arthritis is three times more common in women than men, possibly due to an abundance of estrogen, and it starts to appear when someone is 35 to 55 years old, although it can appear earlier.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis produces inflammation in the joints, primarily in the synovial membrane, and in the areas surrounding it. At first, rheumatoid arthritis affects the smaller joints in your arms and legs, such as your knuckles, your wrists, and places like that. As a result, it causes swelling in the joint, pain, numbness, and a sensation of heat. It’s very common in sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis for morning stiffness to limit movement, although the rigidity goes away somewhat as the day goes on.
Other symptoms unrelated to the joints can appear, such as weakness, general unease, fever, tiredness, and rheumatoid nodules, Rheumatoid nodules are very characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis, which are painless, hard lumps that appear over the tendons and in other places of high tension.
Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis
It is fundamental to get an early diagnosis for rheumatoid arthritis and a treatment to help control the disease, to diminish the symptoms, and, above all, to slow its development.
There are many different pharmaceutical treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, and they are based on different drugs. If you want to find some, doctors call them anti-inflammatory medication, disease-modifying drugs, or monoclonal antibodies. The doctor, called a rheumatologist, is the one who decides what is the best treatment for each patient.
Nevertheless, you should remember that there is no drug that can cure rheumatoid arthritis, although drugs can help you treat the symptoms and stop the illness from progressing further. Because of this, scientists are always researching the cause of the disease and possible treatments.
In addition to pharmaceutical treatment, here are some steps that can help you in general:
- Try to sleep between 8 to 10 hours a day, and make sure you’re sleeping in a position that doesn’t cut off any circulation.
- Healthy eating and living habits are fundamental.
- In periods of intense pain, you should avoid any strenuous exercise, especially with your hands. Also avoid spending too much time on your feet and repetitive movements with your joints.
- In times when your rheumatoid arthritis is less painful, you should try to do regular exercise to strengthen your muscles in the areas where your affected joints are.
- A physiotherapist can help you decide which exercises are the most helpful and easiest to do.
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you can live a life with less rheumatoid pain by finding good medical treatment to control the condition and by keeping in mind these simple tips.