Rheumatoid arthritis or chronic joint rheumatism: symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis is an attack by the immune system on your own joints, it is an autoimmune disease. In the past, the disease was also called chronic joint rheumatism. It is a chronic disease that occurs three times more often in women than in men. What is the cause and what are the symptoms? How is the diagnosis made, what are the treatment options and what is the prognosis?

Article content

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Causes of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Complications of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis treatment
  • Rheumatoid arthritis prognosis

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis, also called RA , is a chronic disease of joints , especially the small joints of the hand and foot. The joints hurt, swell and become stiff due to inflammation of the synovial membrane (this is the covering of joint cavities). Ultimately, the ends of the bones and cartilage are also affected by the condition. Rheumatoid arthritis usually occurs on both sides simultaneously. Other tissues can also become inflamed, such as the heart, lungs, blood vessels, but also the eyes. Rheumatoid arthritis is most common in people between the ages of fifty and seventy , but you can also get it at other ages. Women are more commonly affected by the condition. It is a family condition.

Causes of rheumatoid arthritis

The immune system is so disturbed that the joints of the body are attacked. This leads to chronic inflammation and, over time, irreversible damage to the joints. It is still unclear why this autoimmune reaction starts.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis usually develops slowly, but the disease can also manifest itself suddenly.

  • General complaints : a tired feeling, body temperature may be slightly elevated, less appetite for food, decreased body weight, anemia.
  • Specific complaints : the affected joints become red, swell and are sensitive when touched, pain when moving and the joints feel stiff. Small lumps may develop at pressure points (for example at the elbows), these lumps are also called nodules. The symptoms may diminish during pregnancy. Due to the ongoing inflammation, the joints will change, including the ligaments. There will be less and less space between the joints. The ligaments can break, which also affects the joints, which can become fused. It may be that the strange position cannot be remedied.

Complications of rheumatoid arthritis

  • Decalcification of bone, osteoporosis;
  • Anemia;
  • Inflammation of nerves;
  • Nerves can become pinched (think, for example, of carpal tunnel syndrome);
  • The cervical vertebrae can shift;
  • Raynoud’s phenomenon: veins can become narrowed, fingers and toes become pale and painful when exposed to cold;
  • Bursitis: the bursa around a joint is inflamed;
  • Eyes, blood vessels, lining of the lungs, lining of the heart and intervertebral discs can become inflamed;
  • Wounds and pressure points can occur.

Rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis

The diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is usually made when four of the following seven symptoms are present for at least six weeks:

  1. A stiff feeling in the morning that lasts at least an hour;
  2. Joint inflammation at the same time in three or more joint groups;
  3. Inflammation of at least one joint of the hand;
  4. Symmetrical joint inflammation;
  5. Positive rheumatism tests (blood);
  6. Nodules are present;
  7. Abnormalities seen on X-ray that are associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment

  • Cure is not possible, the aim is to prevent further damage to the joints.
  • The doctor will prescribe medication and it is important that the best possible movement pattern is learned and performed.
  • A splint or sling can provide support for a very painful joint. Hydrotherapy and ice can also reduce the pain.
  • Simple exercises and physiotherapy can help keep the joints flexible, but also prevent the muscles from becoming weaker.
  • Sometimes corticosteroids (injections) are used.
  • If a joint is badly damaged, it can be replaced by an artificial joint through surgery.

Rheumatoid arthritis prognosis

Rheumatoid arthritis is recognized earlier these days, which is why the disease is no longer as disabling as it was in the past. The majority of people in whom the disease is now discovered can lead a fairly normal life. However, with lifelong medication use and possible adjustments in activities. To monitor the progression of the disease and response to medications, blood tests should be performed regularly.

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