Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as rheumatism, is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than the joints. In some people, the condition can damage the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.
An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system erroneously attacks its own body tissues. Unlike tear damage to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling, which can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.
While new types of medications have dramatically improved treatment options, severe rheumatoid arthritis can lead to physical disabilities.
As we age, joint problems become inevitable, but there are other causes that can lead to damage to the cartilage that covers the joints. And once the cartilage wears out, arthritis sets in.
What are the causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the synovium – the mucosa of the membranes that surround the joints, the inflammation that thickens the synovium can eventually destroy the cartilage and bone in the joint. The tendons and ligaments that shelter the joint weaken and tighten and gradually the joint loses its shape and alignment.
Risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis:
- Sex – women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis;
- Age – the disease can occur at any age, but most often begins between the ages of 40 and 60;
- Hereditary factor – if a member of your family has rheumatoid arthritis, you may be at increased risk of developing the disease;
- Smoking – this unhealthy habit increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, especially if you have a genetic predisposition to the development of the disease;
- Obesity – overweight or obese people appear to be at a higher risk of developing the disease.
What are the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Being an autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system incorrectly attacks the body’s tissues. Unlike osteoarthritis, which involves damage to the cartilage around the joints, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints, causing painful inflammation that can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.
Usually, rheumatoid arthritis begins slowly, with minor symptoms coming and going on both sides of the body and progressing over a period of weeks or months. Symptoms vary from person to person and may differ from day to day. The main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are joint pain, swelling and joint stiffness. More general symptoms and inflammation in other parts of the body may also occur.
One of the first early signs of rheumatoid arthritis is often fatigue, which can occur before the onset of other symptoms for weeks or even months. Fatigue can set in and disappear just as easily, from one week to the next or even from one day to the next. Sometimes the state of fatigue is accompanied by a poor general condition or even depression.
Stiff joints in the morning
Joint stiffness felt in the morning is often an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis. If this stiffness lasts for a few minutes, it is usually a symptom of a form of arthritis that can worsen over time without proper treatment. People who feel stiff joints for several hours often have inflammatory arthritis.
Joint stiffness can occur at any time of the day, whether the person is active or not. Stiffness usually begins to be felt in the joints of the hands and appears slowly, although it is not excluded that it appears suddenly and affects several joints during one or two days.
Joint stiffness is often followed by joint tenderness or pain both during movement and at rest. This also affects both parts of the body equally. In the incipient cases of rheumatoid arthritis, the most common areas where pain occurs are the fingers and wrists, but also the knees, feet, ankles or shoulders.
Slight inflammation of the joints
At the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, a slight inflammation of the joints may occur, which makes the joints appear larger than normal. This swelling is usually associated with a feeling of warmth or burning in the joints. This symptom may persist from a few days to a few weeks and may increase in intensity over time. Subsequent symptoms may be felt in the same joints or in other joints.
In cases where the fever is accompanied by other symptoms, such as joint pain and joint inflammation, this may be an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis. It should be noted that a high fever, above 38 ° C, is most likely a sign of another form of illness or infection.
Numbness and tingling
Inflammation of the tendons can put pressure on the nerves. This can cause numbness, tingling or a burning sensation in the hands, a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. The joints of the hands or feet can also produce a distinctive noise (a squeak or a crack) when moving, as damaged cartilage rubs against the joints.
Decreased freedom of movement
Inflammation of the joints can cause the tendons and ligaments to become unstable or deformed. As the disease progresses, it may even lead to the patient’s inability to bend or straighten some joints. Although freedom of movement can also be affected by the pain felt, it is very important that the person in question follows their normal and gentle training.
What is the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Recent findings indicate that remission of symptoms is more likely when treatment begins earlier with potent drugs known as antirheumatic drugs that modify the disease. Your doctor may also refer you to a therapist who can teach you exercises to keep your joints flexible. The therapist may also suggest new ways to do daily tasks, which will be easier for the joints. For example, if your fingers are sore, you may want to lift an object using your forearms.
If medications fail to prevent or slow down joint damage, you and your doctor may consider surgery to repair the damaged joints. Surgery can help restore your ability to use your joint. It can also reduce pain and deformities.
In addition to the remedies mentioned above, there are some natural ingredients that can help reduce symptoms and increase mobility:
Boswellia – is a plant native to India, North Africa and the Middle East, being used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 5,000 years. This plant has a rich content of α and β-boswellic acids and has antirheumatic properties. The benefits include improving blood flow to the joints and restoring them.
Curcumin – used mainly in Ayurvedic medicine, it is considered a powerful antioxidant with therapeutic properties. The substance is extracted from the root of the plant Curcuma longa, also known as “Indian saffron”. The main benefit is the neutralization of excess free radicals, responsible for joint damage.
Devil’s Claw – The plant is native to South Africa and contains two active compounds, harpagoside and beta-sitosterol. Benefits include improving discomfort and improving joint mobility.
All four natural ingredients are found in a dietary supplement that helps the proper functioning of the osteoarticular system. Other benefits include reducing osteoarticular and muscle discomfort, supporting joint mobility, but also protecting cartilage, tendons, ligaments and bones.