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Rheumatoid Arthritis
Health Guide
Definition
Arthritis is a collective term describing over 100 different forms of connective tissue disease marked by pain and degeneration or inflammation of the joints. The tissues most affected are the intestinal tissues, cartilage, bone, tendons, and ligaments. Arthritis can be classified as chronic or acute; acute attacks tend to occur for short duration, whereas a chronic condition can be consistent and last long durations. To date aetiology is not known, but the most common forms of chronic arthritis are rheumatoid, osteoarthritis and gout. Unfortunately arthritic diseases can only be managed as they are never cured.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects 2 percent of the world population. It is three times more common in women than in men and can begin at any age from 10 to 70. Most commonly onset occurs at the ages 30 to 40.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a common type of chronic disease affecting any joint both small and large. The incidence of Rheumatoid arthritis is reported to increase significantly in the later stages of life, and predominantly affects female more than men ie. 1 in 3.
Symptoms
  • Pain, stiffness and swelling are the most common complaints and depending upon the severity this disease can be debilitating and crippling.

  • On-set is usually gradual with stiffness appearing first and after several months the arthritis begins to present.
    Morning stiffness is especially common and can last up to several hours. The joint swelling is caused by considerable inflammation of the tissues surrounding the joints, thus generating the production of excess fluid which is directly responsible for swelling in the joints. The most common sites for RA include the hands especially around the knuckles, wrists, elbows, shoulders, cervical spine, knees, ankles and feet.

  • Progressive joint damage. Toxic substances that are produced by inflammatory reactions in the tissues can mount immune destruction to the cartilage causing considerable disability.

  • Signs of malnutrition or anaemia may present ie. nutritional deficiencies
    During the inflammatory process a elevated metabolic rate is experienced and changes to the gastrointestinal lining can occur causing malabsorption, thus increasing the nutritional requirements of the affected individual.

  • Fatigue and general malaise (illness) are also symptoms

    It is important to consult your physician if you are developing any of these symptoms or you suspect you may be suffering from this illness.

    Treatment

    Every aspect of the affected individuals life-style must me considered including home, work, recreational activities and relationships. Generally the individual is encouraged to live a full and unchanged lifestyle. It important to point out that physical lifestyle dose not accelerate the deterioration of the joints in RA, thus patients are recommended to do regular simple exercises to maintain mobility and reduce stiffness.

    Treatment Regime
    1. Establish the type and severity of the arthritis.
    Determining the type and severity of arthritis, can be successfully diagnosed by the use of blood testing and x-rays.

    2. Medication
    Painkillers such as paracetamol and codeine are used for mild cases. Whereas anti-inflammatory drugs known as NSAID¹s (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) are used to treat more severe cases. Steroids are prescribed with caution due to the unwanted side-effects, which may occur with particular cases. Corticosteroids are effective, but seldom used due to their side-effects. However, it may be used in explosive cases of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

    3. Regular supervision and management of symptoms
    This is an on-going requirement, although surgery is considered when repairing or replacing joints and tendons.

    Consultation with your physician will allow

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