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Rheumatoid Arthritis - The Basics

Aug 17, 2007
What is it?
It is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and even possibly loss of movement in affected joints. It is mostly prevalent in the wrist and fingers and women are much more prone to it than men. It starts between ages 25 and 55 and may have its symptoms even disappear for a period of time. The severe form of rheumatoid arthritis can last a lifetime. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means the arthritis results from your own immune system attacking your own body's tissues, which results in these various abnormalities.

How to Tell?
There are no quick and sudden "red flags" to tell that you have an onset of rheumatoid arthritis, although there are some common traits that you can watch out for. If you are experiencing lasting joint pain in any part of your body pay immediate attention to it. If that then progresses to either joint swelling or joint stiffness, especially if there is tenderness or pain when touching a joint you should immediately contact the doctor. Problems in using or moving a joint normally, or warmth and redness in a joint especially if they persist warrant a visit. If any one of these symptoms lasts longer than 2 weeks, see your regular doctor. Keep in mind that if you have a fever, feel physically ill, or suddenly have a swollen joint you might want to see your doctor sooner.

The pain and inflammation of arthritis have commonly been treated using medications, local steroid injections, and joint replacement. All of these approaches have been met with varying levels of success.

Today's researchers are working to develop treatments to forestall joint erosion even before it elevates to noticeable status. People whose joints are already damaged by arthritis can benefit from today's research.

Most arthritis medications fall into three categories: those that relieve pain; those that reduce inflammation or the body process that causes swelling, warmth, and redness; and those that slow the disease process and limit further damage to the joints.

Pain relievers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) and NSAIDs such as Motrin (ibuprofen) are used to reduce the pain caused by many rheumatic conditions. Some forms of NSAIDs have the added benefit of decreasing the inflammation associated with arthritis. But, nothing is without a price, as one of the more common side effects is stomach irritation, which can create a "catch-22" situation that can force the reduction of the dosage or medication.

Biological products are a new class of drugs used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. They differ from conventional drugs in that they are derived from living cell culture systems and are not chemically manufactured as regular drugs. There are four licensed biologics. Of those three help reduce inflammation and structural damage of the joints by blocking a protein (TNF) involved in immune system responses. Elevated levels of TNF are often found in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

There are also devices designed to fight rheumatoid arthritis. These are preparations that mirror hyaluronic acid - a naturally occurring body substance that lubricates the knee joint. These are injected directly into the knee joint to help relieve pain, increase joint movement and stop further progression of the disease.

Electrical nerve stimulation is another set of devices used in rheumatoid arthritis treatment. These devices modify the brain's perception of pain thereby restoring normal activities to the patient, albeit not really curing the cause of the problem. There is ongoing research to see if these devices, coupled with more potent drugs, which would otherwise be very painful to administer, to accelerate the treatment.

With proper treatment, the pain and swelling from rheumatoid arthritis will get better, and joint damage might slow down or stop. The patient will find it easier to move around, and will feel better.

Common Sense Tips
Exercise and good diet together significantly improve physical function and reduce arthritis related pain in people older than 60 who are overweight or obese, according to both the Arthritis Foundation and the American College of Rheumatology. Further research shows that physical activity decreases joint pain, improves function and a person's mood and outlook, and delays disability.

Regular exercise also helps to reduce the pain and fatigue of many different kinds of arthritis and helps people work and do daily activities which directly relate to their sense of independence. Various motion, strengthening, and endurance exercises using muscles without moving joints, as well as aerobic based exercises are extremely beneficial in decreasing joint fatigue, strengthening muscles and bones, increasing flexibility and stamina, and improving the general sense of patient health.
About the Author
Joseph Vishnev loves practical approach to things that actually work and make an instant, positive difference in people's lives. He is constantly scouring various research studies to find common sense ways to treat arthritis and its effects. See: http://www.JointsPain.com for more information.
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