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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis a form of arthritis, is an auto immune disease that primarily affects joints. It is a chronic inflammatory disorder that causes the deformation of the joints. The disease can be characterised by the symmetry it displays, that is , if one joint of one half of the body is affected, then the same joint on the half side of the body is also affected. Generally, small joints of the fingers are affected. However, the small joints of the wrists, ankles, elbow and knees are often seemed to be affected. hips, shoulders, elbows, and neck are also affected.

What can be the cause for Rheumatoid Arthritis ?

RA is a form of arthitis , the exact causes of which are still not known completely, although various factors are believed to be the causes. Some of them are genes, hormones and environmental factors. It is believed that due to high levels of the hormone oestrogen, RA is common in women than men ,although it has not been proven. Environmental factors like smoking or exposure to smoking have also shown some evidence supporting the cause. Certain other factors as exposure to silica are also considered .However the genetic inheritence of the condition is found to be low.

What symptoms are to be checked?

Since RA primarily affects joints, pain in joints and swelling are most commonly notes symptoms. Redness around the affected joints and its stiffness that lasts more than half an hour are the other unavoidable symptoms. Fatigue and flu-like symptoms along with the above said symptoms are to be considered.As previously mentioned the disease can be characterised by the symmetry it displays, that is , if one joint of one half of the body is affected, then the same joint on the half side of the body is also seen affected.

How to diagonise RA?

A variety of tests are needed to diagonise RA, as many symptoms show up for few days and then tend to vanish and also the exhibited symptoms mimic the symptoms associated with the various other illness. Imaging techniques such as X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the affected parts are performed . Ultrasound are also used for this purpose, mainly color doppler and power doppler ultrasound are used.Blood tests are carried out to detect the presence of rheumatoid factor .In most of the patients,test appears negative, but the condition is not ruled out and the patients are further tested for Anti–citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs).

What treatments are available for RA?

Rheumatoid arthritis is not a curable disease, however the the symptoms exhibited by the patients can be treated. Treatments are available to reduce the pain,the inflammation, swelling or stiffness, enabling the patient to lead an active life. Disease progression can be slowed down by taking medications and strict monitering of the results after regular tests. In the early phase of rheumatoid arthritis, certain lifesyle changes such as regular physical exercise, ample rest, caring the joints and healthy diet are recommended. In certain cases, doctors may suggest arthroscopy such as knee arthroscopy , elbow arthroscopy or shoulder arthroscopy depending on the severity and site of damage.

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