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An introduction to rheumatoid arthritis

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Rheumatoid arthritis is a disorder of human body in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. This results in inflammation, swelling and pain in the joints. If the inflammation continues unchecked it can damage the cartilage inside the joint. In due course of time the cartilage may be lost resulting in reduction of the space between the bones. Joints may also become loose and unstable. This can also result in joint deformity. Doctors generally recommend early detection and appropriate treatment for controlling rheumatoid arthritis.

Causes

This disease is caused as a result of abnormal response of the immune system to some stimuli.  No one knows why and when the immune system goes awry. Latest research has shown that people with genetic marker named HLA shared epitope have greater chances than people without that marker. Similarly genes like STAT4. TRAFO and C5 are associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms

The symptoms or signs of rheumatoid arthritis are furnished below.

  • Swelling, stiffness, tenderness, joint pain etc
  • More joints are affected
  • Morning stiffness that lasts 30 minutes or longer
  • Small joints are often affected
  • Same joints on both sides of the body are affected.

Aim of the treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is to stop inflammation and to relive its symptoms. It also aims at preventing organ damage and to improve the physical functioning of the joint.

Drugs that are used to ease the symptoms

Non steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs are used to ease the pain and inflammation. Ibuprofen, Ketoprofen etc are some examples of NSAIDs usually prescribed. They are readily available as over the counter medications. These medicines are usually taken orally or applied as a patch or cream directly over the swollen joint.

Drugs that slow disease activity

Corticosteroids like prednisolone, methyprednisolone etc are sued by doctors for controlling the damaging inflammation. Because of the side effects doctors generally use this medication only for a short period or in low doses.

DMARDS: Doctors also prescribe anti rheumatic drugs capable of modifying the disease known as DMRDs. These medications are given orally or can be self injected or can be administered as an infusion

Surgery: Most often surgery is not needed in the case of rheumatoid arthritis. But this is an important option and can be made use of in case of permanent damage that limits daily activities.   Hip replacements, knee replacements etc are common surgical procedures followed in rheumatoid arthritis cases.

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