R is for Rheumatoid Arthitis

May 18, 2013

Rheumatoid arthritis is a common form of arthritis that affects the foot with inflammation and deformity.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints, causing inflammation, pain, stiffness, and joint deformity over time. It occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy tissues, particularly the synovium, which is the lining of the joints.

Autoimmune Disease: Rheumatoid arthritis is classified as an autoimmune disease because it involves an abnormal immune response. The immune system mistakenly identifies the synovium as a threat and initiates an inflammatory response, leading to chronic inflammation and damage to the joints.

Joint Involvement: Rheumatoid arthritis primarily affects the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet. However, it can also involve other joints, including the elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. The inflammation can lead to swelling, pain, stiffness, and loss of joint function.

Chronic Inflammation: In RA, inflammation in the synovium causes the production of excess synovial fluid, which leads to joint swelling and pain. Over time, chronic inflammation can damage cartilage, bones, and other structures within the joints.

Systemic Effects: Rheumatoid arthritis is not limited to joint involvement. It is a systemic disease that can affect other organs and systems in the body. It can lead to fatigue, low-grade fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and inflammation in other areas, such as the lungs, heart, blood vessels, and eyes.

Fluctuating Symptoms: The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can vary from person to person and may fluctuate over time. Some individuals may experience periods of remission with few or no symptoms, while others may have persistent symptoms or experience disease flare-ups.

Diagnosis: Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis involves a combination of clinical evaluation, physical examination, medical history, blood tests (e.g., rheumatoid factor, anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies), and imaging studies (e.g., X-rays, ultrasound, MRI) to assess joint inflammation and damage.

Treatment: The goal of rheumatoid arthritis treatment is to control inflammation, relieve pain, reduce joint damage, and improve quality of life. Treatment options may include medications (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, biologic agents), physical therapy, occupational therapy, lifestyle modifications, and surgery in severe cases.

Multidisciplinary Approach: The management of rheumatoid arthritis often involves a multidisciplinary team, including rheumatologists, primary care physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other healthcare professionals. They work together to develop an individualized treatment plan based on the severity of symptoms, disease activity, and the patient’s specific needs.


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