You may have experienced it yourself or heard people say: “I tend to shiver and experience a sharp pain in my knees and joints when the weather gets cold,” right? Well, this ‘shivering’ and ‘sharp pain’ is a normal reaction of the body. However, a persistent and uncontrolled shiver, sharp or intense pain, with stiffness in or around the joints, is a possible sign of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
What Rheumatoid Arthritis is
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory condition or disease that mostly affects the joints. It attacks the Synovium, the membrane that lines the joints. When this happens, the joint gets swollen and if treatment is delayed, can lead to deformity or loss of function in that part of the body.
Dr. Bray of Medifem Multi-specialist Hospital and Fertility Centre says Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune condition because, instead of the body’s immune system fighting pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, it rather attacks the healthy cells and organs in the body. The cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is not yet known, but Dr. Bray says research is being undertaken to determine the cause.
How to detect
Being a disease of the joint, Rheumatoid Arthritis is detected following a severe or mild pain, a swelling, stiffness and a loss of function (numbness) at the wrist, ankle, knee, and elbow. In extreme cases, “the disease can be life threatening when it affects vital organs like the eyes, mouth, lungs, heart, skin, and blood vessels,” Dr. Bray said.
Who can have RA?
People who suffer Rheumatoid Arthritis usually fall between the ages 35 to 50. The condition is said to be very predisposed or common in women (over 55) than in men. The reason why this is so is not widely known. Rheumatoid Arthritis can also affect children, in which case it is called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Effective treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis begins with a diagnostic test. Doctors gather information about the patient from his/her medical history. According to Dr. Bray, doctors use this information to conduct further laboratory test, which involves using an antibody called Anti-CCP (cyclic citrullinated peptide).
Anti-CCP helps to distinguish Rheumatoid Arthritis from other inflammatory types of arthritis. Doctors also administer Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS e.g. Ibuprofen, naproxen) to reduce pain, stiffness, fever and inflammation. One other medication used is the Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs). Examples of these drugs include Hydroxychloroquine – used for mild rheumatoid arthritis, as well as methotrexate. The last viable option of effectively treating Rheumatoid Arthritis is by Surgery.
Dr. Bray advice that people bear in mind the outcome of self-treatment for any health condition can be critical to one’s health and survival; “Rather than doing self-treatment, which in most cases is done poorly, it’s important and safe to visit your doctor or the nearest hospital for medical attention. Always know that the earlier you report your health problem, the earlier treatment is initiated,” she said.
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