Women three times more likely to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis

Women three times more likely to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis
Highlights

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic, autoimmune disease where the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the healthy joints. This leads to inflammation of the tissue that protects the joints and this causes swelling, pain and discomfort. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic, autoimmune disease where the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the healthy joints. This leads to inflammation of the tissue that protects the joints and this causes swelling, pain and discomfort.

The overall worldwide prevalence of RA is 0.8 per cent and steadily increases to 5 per cent in women over the age of 70. In India, the prevalence of RA has been estimated to be 0.7 per cent and is two to three times more common in women compared to men. Since, pain arising from RA varies from burning to throbbing to excruciating, it is important that patients consult a pain specialist early to diagnose it and get treated.

What happens when Rheumatoid Arthritis attacks?
Our bones are connected to each other with the help of joints which allow us to bend, stretch, twist and turn our wrists, fingers, hands, legs etc. The end of the joints is protected by a cushion like substance that allows smooth functioning, without any friction. The inner surface of the joints contains a fluid called synovium that nourishes and lubricates the joints.

During Rheumatoid Arthritis, the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the joints, fluid and tissue that protect joints. This causes inflammation leading to pain and swelling. Rheumatoid Arthritis commonly starts in the small joints of the hands and feet, later affect the big joints like knees and hips. In the late stages there are chances that fingers and toes and other joints will get deformed.

Causes and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Researchers are still trying to find out why a person’s immune system starts to attack the healthy joints of the body. However, some postulates about the causes of RA include environmental factors such as too much physical work, Obesity, Hormonal issues and Genetic factors.

The very early symptoms of RA may not be distinct; however one needs to look out for the following symptoms to confirm RA.

  • Stiffness in joints early in the morning after waking up, that lasts for more than 30 minutes.
  • Joint pain, redness, stiffness that lasts for more than 6 months at a stretch
  • Smaller joints such as wrists, knuckles etc are affected first. Hence, they are a good clue of RA progression.

Rheumatoid arthritis pain is so unpredictable that you never know whenit’s going to flare up. Sometimes it feels like burning and other times it feels like throbbing which is so bad that you can't think about anything else.

Diagnoses and Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis take time to fully develop and the initial symptoms resemble joint ache and swollen joints.People who suffer from joint aches must consult a rheumatologist. With the help of medical history, x-rays, physical and laboratory tests rheumatoid arthritis can be diagnosed.

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Some OTC drugs can alleviate pain only but recent discoveries indicate that reduction of symptoms is more likely when treatment begins early with specific drugs.

Since RA is an autoimmune disorder, curing it completely is still unlikely. Hence, following approach is used by doctors to provide maximum comfort and relief to the patients. Rheumatoid Arthritis is featured in the top 12 most disabling diseases by WHO and due to the nature of this disease, it is quite a challenge for patients and caregivers to lead an uninterrupted everyday life.

Therefore, frequent doctor visits, maintaining an active lifestyle and gathering more knowledge about the disease is crucial. A lot of research is underway in the field of RA which promises to make lives of patients easy and pain-free. The Writer is Dr Satish Reddy MS (Ortho), M.Ch Ortho(UK); Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Managing Director; Aster Prime Hospitals.

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