Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

2023-11-27 00:00:00

What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and occurs when the immune system is not working properly and attacks the lining of the joints called synovium.

The disease usually affects the hands, knees or ankles and the same joint on both sides of the body. It develops silently for years before the first symptoms appear.

The disease leads to significant thickening of the synovial tissue, forming what is called a synovial “pannus”.

The synovial membrane then presents many layers instead of just one, and the synovial and subsynovial tissue is invaded by large numbers of immune cells, which eventually destroy the surrounding structures.

The cartilage degrades and thins, while the bone around the joint develops notches or cavities. Tendons and ligaments can also be quickly attacked and rupture.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects between 0.5 and 1% of the adult population, can occur at any age and affects more women than men. Having a family member with the disease increases the risk of developing it.

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?
In a healthy person, the immune system serves as a fighter against bacteria and viruses.

In an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakes the body’s cells for foreign viruses and releases inflammatory chemicals that attack those cells.

In rheumatoid arthritis, it attacks the synovium, the tissue that lines the joint and produces fluid that allows the joint to move smoothly. The inflamed synovium thickens and makes the joint area painful and tender, red and swollen, and it may be difficult to move the joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in smokers and is more difficult to treat.

Certain traumatic factors facilitate the onset of the disease or a flare-up when rheumatoid arthritis is known: bereavement, separation, stress, etc.

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
In the early stages of the disease, people with rheumatoid arthritis may not see redness or swelling in the joints, but may experience tenderness and pain.

The most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis:
– Pain, tenderness, swelling or stiffness in the joints for six weeks or more.
– Morning stiffness lasting 30 minutes or more.
– More than one joint is affected.
– Small joints (wrists, certain joints of the hands and feet) are generally the first affected.
– The same joints are affected on both sides of the body.
– Tiredness
– Mild fever in some cases

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may come and go. A flare-up can last several days or months.

Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the rest of the body:
– In the eyes: dryness, pain, inflammation and redness, sensitivity to light and vision problems.
– In the mouth: dryness and inflammation, irritation or infection of the gums.
– On the skin: rheumatoid nodules, which are small bumps under the skin above bony areas.
– In the lungs: inflammation and scarring which can lead to shortness of breath and lung disease.
– In the blood: inflammation of blood vessels which can lead to damage to nerves, skin and other organs. Lower than normal number of red blood cells.
– At the heart: damage to the heart muscle.

Joints that are painful also prevent you from exercising, leading to weight gain.

Being overweight can make people with rheumatoid arthritis more likely to develop high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Diagnosis of the disease
Through a clinical examination and blood tests, your doctor will be able to confirm or not the disease.

Chiropractic and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Polyarthritis like osteoarthritis limits the mobility of the joint, the surrounding tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles) overloaded in compensation, contract, intensifying the pain. Mobilization by the chiropractor of the affected joints can improve mobility and limit pain.

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