January 08 2021
Inflammation of one or more joints is referred to as arthritis. The characteristic symptoms of arthritis include swelling and tenderness of joints leading to joint pain and stiffness, gradually worsening with age. Redness and a decreased range of motion in the joints may also point towards arthritis as the suspected diagnosis.
Some of the risk factors for arthritis are-
- Obesity - Excessive weight puts stress on joints, leading to a perception that obese people have a higher risk of developing arthritis.
- Age - The incidence of arthritis increases with age.
- Family history - Genetic factors make people with a history of arthritis in the family more susceptible to trigger arthritis in them.
- Sex - Women are more prone to arthritis.
- Previous joint injury - People with a history of an injured joint are more likely to develop arthritis.
The main types of arthritis are -
- Osteoarthritis - This is the most common form of arthritis characterised by the wearing down of the cartilage that cushions the bones mainly occurring in the hands, knees, hips and spine.
- Rheumatoid arthritis - It is an autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the joints as well causes damage to a large number of body systems like the eyes, lungs, skin, heart and blood vessels.
- Spondyloarthritis - It causes inflammation mainly around the joints of the spine.
- Psoriatic arthritis - It is an autoimmune disorder that in addition to painful swelling around the joints also causes red scaly skin rashes called psoriasis.
- Gout - It is a form of arthritis that occurs due to the accumulation of urate crystals in the joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is characterised by joint pain and it affects the whole body. The extensive joint damage typical of rheumatoid arthritis happens on both sides of the body, in both arms or legs. This is a distinguishing feature of rheumatoid arthritis from osteoarthritis. Early diagnosis of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis helps in better treatment of the disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms appear in intervals called as flares or exacerbations. The period when symptoms are absent is called remission. Some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- joint stiffness
- joint pain
- joint swelling
Rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis
Physical examination of joints is performed if symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are suspected and also if there is evidence of family history. It includes:
- testing muscle strength
- examining the affected joints to rule out the tenderness
- looking for a reduction in the range of motion
- testing for adequate reflexes
- checking for the presence of swelling and redness
If rheumatoid arthritis is suspected, further blood tests are performed. Blood is tested for the presence of antibodies and also the level of substances like acute phase reactants are ascertained whose increase shows inflammation.
Certain imaging tests like ultrasound, X-ray or MRI are done for conformity diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. The outcome of these imaging techniques determines not only the presence or absence of joint damage but also shows the extent of the damage. A complete systematic evaluation is also performed in suspected severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis.
Blood tests for rheumatoid arthritis
- Rheumatoid factor test - This blood test determines the presence of a protein called rheumatoid factor. Elevated levels of rheumatoid factor imply the occurrence of autoimmune diseases significantly rheumatoid arthritis.
- Antinuclear antibody test - This is a test of the immune system to check if there is a production of antibodies which are formed by the body in response to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Anti Citrullinated protein antibody test - This test is used to confirm the presence of rheumatoid arthritis. This is the most specific test to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate - This test shows the extent of inflammation in the body.
- C - reactive protein - Rheumatoid arthritis is characterised by the presence of elevated levels of this inflammatory marker in the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis treatment
The main goal of medication in rheumatoid arthritis is to reduce the inflammation and pain and also to reduce the extent of the damage to the joints. Some of the medications which help to alleviate the pain occurring during the rheumatoid arthritis flares include corticosteroids, acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDs ).
Some medicines slow down the adverse effects of the spread of rheumatoid arthritis in the body such as Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs ( DMARDs ). This class of drugs work by inhibiting the body's immune system response which significantly slows down the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Another group of drugs called the Janus kinase ( JAK ) inhibitors are used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in cases where there is no evidence that DMARDs are effective.
Home remedies for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis -
Lifestyle modification plays a major role in significantly improving the long term quality of life in those diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Some of the changes which can be implemented are:
- Regular exercises to strengthen the muscles can provide relief from the pressure in the joints. Yoga can also be practised to improve strength and flexibility.
- Resting the body during flare-ups and getting adequate sleep help in reducing the inflammation as well as fatigue.
- Application of ice packs can be effective for relieving the pain during a muscle spasm. Hot showers may help to reduce the stiffness.
- Assistive devices such as cranes, grab bars, handrails and crutches can be used to withstand flares and maintain mobility.
Our products like Salmon fish oil and omega - 3 fish oil capsules are specifically formulated to reduce the stiffness of the affected joints and help in pain reduction and can be used as a supplement.
Rheumatoid arthritis diet -
To reduce the symptoms, an anti-inflammatory diet should be implemented which includes foods rich in omega - 3 fatty acids some of which are flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, fatty fish like mackerel, tuna and salmon. Foods which contain a good amount of antioxidants ( vitamins A, C and E, selenium) include spinach, kidney beans, pecans, artichokes and berries such as blueberries, cranberries and strawberries.
Ingestion of the right amount of fibre also helps to reduce the inflammation which in turn is manifested as a decrease in the C - reactive protein levels in the body. Flavonoid containing foods such as broccoli, green tea, grapes also help to counter the inflammatory response in the body.