A Brief Overview Of Rheumatoid Arthritis PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 24 December 2011 10:01
The term arthritis refers to pain, swelling and stiffness of joints. However, joint pain is not a disease but a symptom. It is one of the ways the body tells you that something is wrong. With almost nine million people suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), it has emerged as the most common ailment in the country affecting young and middle aged people. If untreated, Arthritis could well assume epidemic proportions by 2013.

RA is one of the autoimmune diseases in which the immune system targets the joints initially. If not treated early it attacks other organs like lungs, kidneys, heart, eyes and nerves. Pain and swelling start in the wrists, hands or feet, and can spread to other joints. Another major problem is the severe stiffness especially in the early morning hours.

In Rheumatoid Arthritis, as the immune system attacks the joints, cartilage damage starts very early and it leads to joint destruction. Most of the joint damage occurs early and is fastest in the first two years. Therefore early detection and drug treatment are essential to prevent any permanent joint damage.

Thanks to advancements in the field of rheumatology, more than 75 per cent of the patients are now able to lead normal lives if treated early. Unfortunately, some patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis do not get optimal treatment. They develop deformities which could be easily prevented. Early detection and effective treatment help in checking disease progression resulting in a normal, pain free life for the patient.

Treatment plan includes visits to a rheumatologist who may further guide the patient to physical therapists, occupational therapists, orthopaedic surgeons, podiatrists or psychiatrists. Treatment involves a multidisciplinary approach where drugs, exercise, food, hot and cold fomentation and joint protection play their individual parts. The goals of treatment are to relieve pain and swelling of the joints so that cartilage and bone loss are minimised with improvement in quality of life. Pharmacotherapy of RA consists of anti-inflammatory drugs, conventional disease modifying anti rheumatoid drugs and biologicals.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, there is no specific ‘arthritis diet’. However, if one notices that certain food items worsen RA symptoms and others alleviate them, it makes sense to make some adjustments in the diet. Studies also suggest that regular exercise helps in reducing inflammation; these should be done under the supervision of a qualified physiotherapist.

The various types of exercises include:
* Range-of-Motion exercises help maintain and increase mobility. (Dance)
* Strengthening exercises (weight training) help maintain and increase muscle strength.
* Aerobic or endurance exercises (bicycle riding) improve cardiovascular fitness. Losing weight helps as extra weight puts extra pressure on joints which worsens the symptoms of RA.

Furthermore, occupational therapy helps patients maintain their day to day activities with minimal stress on joints, as therapists provide splints and teach energy conservation work simplification and joint protection.

Shenoy, P (2011), "Reaching epidemic proportions", Deccan Chronicle

 
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