Published on September 27th, 2013 | by dc0
Rheumatic Arthritis Symptoms And Effective Treatment Methods
Rheumatic arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints and surrounding tissues. Women are more likely to suffer with this condition than men are and it most often occurs in middle age. The precise cause remains unknown but experts believe there are various environmental, hormonal and genetic factors involved.
This is a chronic disease with no known cure. Symptoms occur when the immune system attacks the thin membrane lining the joints between bones, or the synovium. The joints fill up with fluid as a result, which causes inflammation and pain throughout the body. The cartilage between bones can erode, sometimes to the point where bones rub against each other.
The condition tends to affect joints symmetrically on both sides of the body. It most commonly affects the fingers, feet, ankles, and wrists. Early symptoms are minor but worsen over time.
Individuals who recognize symptoms early and seek medical treatment can slow the progression to reduce the risk of organ damage, joint degeneration and disabilities. Symptoms vary from patient to patient and can even change from day to day in people with this disease. Common symptoms include joint swelling and pain. Individuals often suffer with stiffness of the affected areas in the morning and the joints may be warm to the touch. Additional symptoms may include fatigue, a low-grade fever or a loss of appetite.
Rheumatoid nodules that grow near affected joints are the most obvious signs of the disease. These lumps are firm and sometimes grow to be as big as walnuts. In some patients, the lumps are attached to the fascia or tendons underneath the skin and do not move. In others, the lumps move around freely. The nodules may or may not be painful and they can press on nerves in a way that limits motion.
Most patients experience intermittent flares when disease activity increases. For some, pain is continuous and gradually gets worse. It is possible for sufferers to enter remission and enjoy long periods with no symptoms.
Many physicians prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Patients with moderate to severe cases require additional medications to slow the disease’s progression. These disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs block immune system reactions, which can increase the risk of catching infections. Physicians most often prescribe methotrexate, which is effective for preserving joint function.
Genetically engineered proteins, or biologics, target specific immune system reactions responsible for inflammation. TNF blockers inhibit release of tumor necrosis factor, a protein that causes tissues to swell. Many physicians recommend their patients take methotrexate and TNF blockers simultaneously. Steroids taken orally or through injections into the affected joint are helpful for patients with severe cases of rheumatic arthritis or those who are experiencing a flare.
Patients with rheumatic arthritis should visit a rheumatologist for treatment. These medical professionals are internists who specialize in treating diseases affecting the joints, bones, muscles and other tissues. Early intervention can improve quality of life and prevent damage to joints and bones that may lead to deformity and disability.