Rheumatoid arthritis – also known as rheumatoid arthritis, primary chronic polyarthritis and chronic polyarthritis – is a joint disease. Those affected suffer from swollen, painful and deformed joints, with the finger joints and wrists being the most affected. Rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis leads to destruction and deformation of the joints. Doctors speak of a systemic autoimmune disease. The disease usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 50; sometimes even small children can develop rheumatoid arthritis. The disease is incurable; as part of the treatment, the symptoms are alleviated – the cause cannot be treated. For about chronic renal failure, please visit bittranslators.com.
This is probably also due to the fact that the cause of rheumatoid arthritis has not yet been clarified one hundred percent. The doctors assume a hereditary predisposition. In rheumatoid arthritis, the body attacks the body’s own substances and triggers inflammatory reactions.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Initial symptoms include joint pain and stiffness ; both of these symptoms occur predominantly in the morning. As a result, those affected complain of weakness and ever-increasing swelling in the finger joints. In some cases, however, those affected complain of only very minor symptoms; here only very few joints are affected.
Sometimes the main symptoms are accompanied by general symptoms – including weight loss and fever. In around 20 percent of all cases, the symptoms resolve spontaneously. In more than 50 percent of those affected, however, the symptoms persist. Doctors speak of “spurts” that can subsequently destroy and deform the joints. There is also a reduction in the strength of the affected joints.
Sometimes other organs – such as the eyes, the bone marrow or the heart – can also be affected by the inflammation. Rheumatoid nodules can develop in the lungs and heart. There are also special forms: Here there are combinations of symptoms, all of which have a different course and must be diagnosed and treated individually.
Diagnosis & course of disease
At the beginning there is a physical examination, during which the doctor only performs blood and tissue tests. On the X-ray, the doctor sometimes recognizes the first deformations or joint destruction. In many cases, however, the doctor cannot make the diagnosis immediately.
Since there are usually not enough symptoms to indicate rheumatic arthritis. For this reason, the doctor only makes the diagnosis when seven of the following ten points are met:
The joints are “stiff” – especially in the morning – and the patient complains of pain when moving or pressure. There is soft tissue swelling in the joint, after three months further swelling has occurred, but in a different joint. Sometimes there is symmetrical joint swelling on both sides, and rheumatic nodules appear.
If the evaluation shows positive rheumatoid factors, the X-ray shows typical changes or the blood count shows mucous substances or the cell count shows typical changes in the synovium, a disease should be considered.
The focus is on pain and joint destruction. As a result, joint deformation and functional limitations occur. The patients are restricted in everyday life; Getting dressed, walking or everyday activities – such as opening a bottle – become torture or are sometimes no longer possible. If the internal organs are affected, the quality of life deteriorates – in extreme cases, life expectancy is reduced.
First and foremost, those affected by this disease suffer from severe pain in the joints. The joints themselves appear stiff and there are limitations in movement and thus in everyday life. The fingers also seem powerless, so that normal everyday activities can no longer be carried out easily. This disease also leads to weight loss and often to fever.
Sometimes the internal organs can be affected by the disease, so that the tissue on the organs is destroyed. The further course of the disease thus also depends strongly on the extent of the disease and this destruction. The treatment itself is carried out with the help of drugs. There are no particular complications. However, many of those affected also depend on various therapies to restore the movement of the fingers and joints.
A healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle can also have a very positive effect on the disease. The life expectancy of the patient is usually not negatively affected by the disease. Unfortunately, the disease cannot be prevented.
When should you go to the doctor?
This disease should always be evaluated and treated by a doctor. Self-healing is not possible, and the means of self-help are not sufficient to treat the disease completely. A doctor should be consulted if the person concerned suffers from severe pain in the joints. The pain can also appear in the form of rest pain and negatively impact the patient’s sleep quality. A permanent fever or severe weight loss can also indicate this disease and must be examined by a doctor.
If treatment is not started early, internal organs and even the bones can also be affected by the inflammation, so that in the worst case the patient can die. For this reason, early treatment of the disease is very important to avoid further complications. The first examination of the disease can be carried out by a general practitioner. For further treatment, visits to a specialist are usually necessary. The life expectancy of those affected may also be limited by the disease.
Treatment & Therapy
A cure is not possible. During the treatment, the doctors make sure that the pain is relieved and the inflammation inhibited. In addition, the doctors try to maintain the functions of the muscles and joints. Which measures are taken at the end of course depends on the individual activity of the disease.
In mild forms, nonsteroidal anti- inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are sufficient; the medicines reduce the swelling, inflammation and pain, but cannot stop the destruction of the joint cartilage. Physical treatments and physiotherapy are – in addition to drug treatment – just as important. If the patient moves, he can maintain the joint functions. Baths, light treatments, massages and electrotherapy can also relieve the symptoms.
There are also numerous surgical procedures available. Surgery is then necessary when the medication is ineffective and the joint destruction cannot be stopped. If the affected joint is destroyed, it can be replaced with an artificial joint. Sometimes the doctor can “stiffen” the joint.
Another aspect is nutrition. With the right diet, a supportive measure can be taken so that the disease can at least be slowed down. Eggs, liverwurst, lard and pork liver are not recommended due to their high arachidonic acid content.
Those affected should consume enough fish (unsaturated fatty acids) and vitamins C and E. Selenium (found in vegetable oil and vegetables) can also relieve symptoms. Milk and various milk products are also recommended (calcium).
The disease cannot be prevented. There are also no drugs that prevent the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. For this reason, it is important that those affected start physiotherapy relatively early.
The primary goal of aftercare for rheumatoid arthritis is to enable the patient to be able to participate in community life and the social environment in a self-determined manner for as long as possible. Although the disease can heal completely in some cases, the prognosis is generally rather poor. In most patients, rheumatoid arthritis eventually leads to complete disability.
It is therefore extremely important that all those involved in aftercare, from the family doctor to the rheumatologist to the rehabilitation provider and rehabilitation facilities, work closely together. The patient learns to deal with the disease and to accept changes in behavior and lifestyle. These are then established in the patient’s everyday life and stabilized and further developed as part of the aftercare.
An important basis for optimal aftercare is recognizing and collecting individual aspects of the patient. These include skills, abilities and habits. The activities of the patient, which can be derived from the resources and abilities, are then optimally promoted. This strengthens the self-help potential and increases the quality of life. In addition, the living space situation must be adjusted due to the impairments of the patient. This also contributes to gaining psychological stability and enjoying life.
You can do that yourself
Rheumatoid arthritis belongs in the treatment of family doctors and orthopaedists, but is also accessible to self-help in everyday life. Above all, this includes the willingness to move. Restraints tend to intensify the severity and appearance of rheumatoid arthritis. Stiff joints and immobility are the result, which in turn can cause pain. In order to effectively break this negative cycle and improve the quality of life of those affected, active movement is important.
This can be learned from a physiotherapist or in rehabilitation sports and should be continued regularly at home in a familiar environment. Which movements are important in this context depends on the joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis. If the joints are large, such as the hips or shoulders, moderate endurance training is recommended, as is targeted strengthening. Special back exercises or swimming are suitable for the spine, which protects the joints even in overweight patients. If small joints in fingers and toes are affected, exercises in warm water, such as grasping small objects, can help. Walking barefoot can also be a blessing for affected feet.
With regard to nutrition, reducing the consumption of meat and sausages has proven to be helpful. There are special self-help groups for exchange with other affected people and for further information.