Arthritis – Rheumatoid arthritis
Continuing our series of posts in which Kiran endeavours to provide a greater understanding of arthritis and how it may impact on the lives of you and your loved ones. In this weeks’ post, we provide further information regarding the most prevalent inflammatory condition – Rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis (often referred to as RA), affects approximately 400,000 people in the U.K, according to the Oxford Economics study in 2008.
It is an inflammatory condition and autoimmune disease. For reasons that are not fully understood yet, the cells that are designed to protect the body against viruses and bacteria start to attack the body itself, especially the synovium which is the thin membrane that lines the joints. This leads to a fluid build-up within the joints which in turn leads to pain. This fluid contains the break down bi- products from the damaged area which act as an irritant in the area and thus causing further inflammation. When this process continues to affect other joints in the body, it is referred to as a systemic problem.
RA is a chronic problem therefore it cannot be cured but it can be managed with the correct medical and physiotherapy input.
When the disease process is active it is known as a flare up and when it calms down it is known as a remission. The signs and symptoms may vary from individual to individual and can change on a daily basis. The joints may swell up due to the inflammatory exudates, be warm to touch, painful and demonstrate reduced range of movement. This usually affects both sides of the body secondary to its systemic nature. The sufferer may also feel fatigued and generally unwell with a slight temperature. They may become anaemic and experience a loss in appetite.
If the diagnosis is made early into the disease process, the damage to the organs, ligaments and joints can be reduced through correct medical and physiotherapy management.
Treatments – Anti-inflammatory drugs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, Ibuprofen and Naproxen are but a few of the drugs which would help to reduce the inflammation taking place systemically.
Corticosteroids such as Prednisolone and Methyprednisolone are faster acting anti-inflammatories, but due to the side effects they are usually only prescribed for a short period of time.
Disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as Sulfasalazine and Hydrochloroquine are but a few which will usually be prescribed fairly early into the disease process as they can help prevent the irreparable joint damage.
Treatments – Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy can help to reduce the damage and pain caused by RA. It can maintain joint range of movement, muscle strength and soft tissue length. Furthermore, physiotherapists will address biomechanical alignment and posture in addition to pain management, including the use of electrotherapy and acupuncture. They can offer advice and education on exercise, pain relief and tips to help you to manage your condition.