Today, I want to bring awareness to a disorder that a second generation family member of mine is currently suffering from: Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
This chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorder affects the small joints in your feet and hands. What makes this disorder different from other arthritic disorders is that it affects the lining of the joints. This causes swelling and bone erosion. In many cases, it leads to the joints becoming deformed.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is classified as an autoimmune disorder because the disorder makes the immune system attack your body's tissues. It's basically a battle of the titans in your body. Every tissue, every molecule, every fiber in your body is the enemy. Your body is fighting against itself.
It is not unheard of for Rheumatoid Arthritis to affect various organs of the body, including the lungs, skin, blood vessels, and eyes.
Individuals are typically diagnosed after age 40, and the disorder affects women more than men.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
-Firm bumps under the skin (typically found on your arms)
-Morning stiffness that lasts for several hours
The disease will start off by attacking your smaller joints (your fingers and toes). As it progresses, it can impact your hips, knees, shoulders, and wrists.
Symptoms may come and go, and vary in strength. Increased activity of RA is called flares. When the swelling is faded, that is called relative remission.
Having RA increases your risk of developing:
-Carpal tunnel syndrome
How is RA diagnosed?
During the beginning stages of RA, it is very hard to diagnose. Your doctor will examine you, testing your strength, while looking for swelling, warmth, and redness.
If your doctor suspects RA, you will be sent for a blood test. Individuals who have RA may have high levels of ESR (sed rate) in their blood. Your doctor will also look for anti-CCP antibodies in your blood.
Xrays are also done to track progression of RA over time.
How is RA treated?
While there is no cure for RA, inflammation and pain can be treated with medication. Physical therapy and Occupational therapy can help with protecting your joints.
If RA is severe, and all conservative treatments have failed to alleviate symptoms, surgery may be recommended.
If you suspect that you may have symptoms of RA, contact your primary care physician.