Rheumatoid arthritis, a prevalent form of chronic inflammatory autoimmune arthritis, manifests through severe inflammation in joints, predominantly affecting fingers and toes. Without timely intervention, this condition can lead to significant joint damage and potential disability.

Identifying the Causes and Risk Factors

The exact origin of rheumatoid arthritis remains elusive, yet it is established as part of the autoimmune disease spectrum. These diseases are characterised by the immune system erroneously attacking the body's tissues, leading to persistent inflammation.

Prevalence of Rheumatoid Arthritis by Age and Gender

Rheumatoid arthritis predominantly occurs in two age brackets: individuals in their 20s to 30s and those in their 50s to 60s. While younger women are more susceptible, the older age group sees a balanced prevalence among both genders.

Recognising Symptoms

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience joint pain, especially in smaller joints like fingers and toes. This condition is rarer in larger joints such as the knees and hips. The pain, different from joint exhaustion, often occurs during rest periods, such as in the middle of the night or upon waking. Although pain medication can alleviate symptoms temporarily, it does not offer a complete solution.

Left unaddressed or improperly treated, rheumatoid arthritis can cause irreversible damage and lead to disability.

Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis

A thorough process is involved in diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. This includes a detailed patient history, physical examination, blood tests, and X-rays. Doctors assess joint inflammation by checking for swelling, tenderness, warmth, and redness, along with any reduction in joint mobility. Common tests include RA factor, anti-CCP, liver and kidney function tests, inflammation markers (ESR, CRP), and joint X-rays.

Effective Treatment Strategies

Treatment aims to halt inflammation, prevent damage progression, and avert complications. Approaches include:

  • Medication: Oral, subcutaneous, and intravenous medications are tailored to reduce inflammation, halt arthritis progression, and address symptoms. This may involve immunosuppressants and analgesics.
  • Surgery: In cases of significant joint damage, surgery to repair or replace joints can enhance mobility, reduce pain, and prevent further disability.
  • Physiotherapy: Improving joint strength and flexibility through physiotherapy is a key component of managing rheumatoid arthritis.

While rheumatoid arthritis cannot be fully cured and symptoms may reoccur, regular medication is crucial for disease control. Consistent follow-up appointments are also vital.

Prevention and Patient Care

Preventing rheumatoid arthritis is challenging due to its unclear cause. However, early detection and treatment can significantly curb disease progression and prevent long-term damage. Strategies for symptom management include:

  • Regular consultations with a rheumatologist for treatment monitoring and medication side-effect checks.
  • Exercising under professional guidance to enhance joint flexibility and function.
  • Avoiding activities that might harm the joints, like heavy lifting or squatting.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight to reduce stress on ankles and knees.
  • Consuming a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, while limiting fatty foods and red meat that can exacerbate inflammation.
  • Using cold compresses on affected areas alongside pain medication for relief.