Rheumatiod Arthritis or commonly known as just Arthritis is medically defined as the systemic chronic disease characterized by the persistent inflammation of the synovial joints which usually involves the joints on the hands and feet. Arthritis usually occurs in a symmetric fashion which means that it would usually occurs either on both hands or on both feet. Although the cause of the disease is unknown, some theorized that it may be possible that it comes from an infection, autoimmunity, or genetic factors. Its prevalence among women is three times greater than its occurrence in men and is usually diagnosed between twenty to fifty – five years of age.
The disease is divided into four stages. The first is accompanied by the inflammation and swelling of the joints. Second stage is called pannus or inflammatory granulation tissue. Third stage is characterized by tough fibrous connective tissue. And lastly there is calcification of bone. Arthritis may also be classified according to the severity of seven signs and symptoms that are evident in the disease. These signs and symptoms are morning stiffness, three or more joints with observable tissue swelling, at least one of the three or more joints involves the wrist, symmetrical joints involved, subcutaneous nodules, abnormal rheumatoid factor blood study findings, and lastly is the typical rheumatoid arthritis radiologic findings. To diagnose the disease, radiographs and a careful physical examination should be done. Blood examinations are helpful but not used for the diagnosis of the disease. Synovial fluid analysis can be tested to rule out infection or crystalline disease.
Clinical manifestations would be fatigue, anorexia, weight loss, limited range of motion, muscle wasting, painful joints, tenderness, and swelling, and morning stiffness. Joint deformities may develop after chronic inflammation.
The goals of treatment are to lessen the pain, to reduce inflammation, to improve or maintain bodily function and strength, to prevent long – term joint damage or deformities, and to control systemic involvement. Medications may be administered depending on the severity of the disease. These medications should be taken in conjunction with the authority of the physician. Non-steroidal anti – inflammatory drugs are initially given both to decrease inflammation and pain. Then disease modifying antirheumatic drugs, immunosuppressive agents, systemic corticosteroids, pain relievers, antidepressants, and intra – articular steroid injections are given. When the inflammation begins to lessen and pain is bearable, patients are encouraged to undergo physical and occupational therapy to strengthen the muscles affected by the disease.
Home remedies may include protecting the joints by properly limiting movements and by increasing activities done in increments. Implementing heat and cold therapy both decreases inflammation and pain. There should also be enough time between exercise and rest. Instructing the client on the use of assistive devices and promoting a good body image will help in the recuperation process. A well – balanced diet and nutrition will go a long way as some rheumatoid arthritis are accompanied by crystalline formations in the joints which add to the inflammation and pain. Other alternative therapies are also available for the patient. When everything else seems to be insufficient, surgical methods may also be implemented.