Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment: An Overview
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects the joints in your body. The most commonly impacted joints are those in the fingers, toes, wrists, and knees. Rheumatoid arthritis is extremely difficult to live with. As there is no known cure, patients have to live with the pain and other associated symptoms for life. In this article, we will gain an understanding of rheumatoid arthritis treatment and medication.
First, let’s understand a bit more about what rheumatoid arthritis is.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy body cells. In rheumatoid arthritis, this leads to inflammation and a number of other symptoms that can include:
- Tenderness, pain, and warmth in the joints
- Stiffness in the joints
- Exhaustion or fatigue
- Popping or cracking sounds in the affected joints
The severity of these symptoms can vary between patients. Sometimes, the pain may be so severe that the patient’s sleep may get disturbed. The condition can also affect other parts of the body including the blood vessels, skin, eyes, and heart.
Over time, rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent damage to the joints and may lead to joint instability. Therefore, it is important to seek rheumatoid arthritis medication and treatment as soon as the symptoms start showing up.
Rheumatoid arthritis can occur anytime between the ages of 30 to 50 years. However, it may set on later in life as well.
Who is at risk for rheumatoid arthritis?
There are certain factors that may heighten your risk of developing this disease. They are:
- Being female: While both sexes can develop this condition, the risk for rheumatoid arthritis is definitely higher among women.
- Being overweight: Being overweight or obese can lead to a lot of health complications. It also puts you at a greater risk of being affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
- Smoking: Smoking can lead to numerous health complications and one of these is an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Some studies also show that smokers may develop a more severe form of this disease when compared to non-smokers.
- Age: Advancing age does bring with it a number of health complications. One of these is an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
- History of the disease: If rheumatoid arthritis tends to run in your family, you too may be at an increased risk of developing this disease.
- Stress: Stress can cause and worsen a number of health conditions. Studies show that stress can increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis or worsen your symptoms if you have already developed this condition.
Rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, it is important to go see a doctor immediately.
Your doctor will run a series of tests to determine the exact diagnosis. There will be a physical examination in which the doctor will check your joints for any visible signs of swelling. You may also have to undergo some imaging tests such as an X-ray or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). You may also have to get a few blood tests done.
A combination of these test results can help your doctor understand how far the disease has progressed in your body. They can then determine a suitable course of treatment that will give relief from the symptoms and also help slow down the disease so that it does not debilitate your joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis treatment and medication
As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. As such, the course of treatment focuses mainly on providing relief from symptoms and slowing down the progression of the disease. Let’s take a look at rheumatoid arthritis medications and treatment procedures in a bit more detail. We shall then look at lifestyle tips that can help patients living with this disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis medication
The medication given for rheumatoid arthritis greatly depends on how severe the symptoms are and how long the patient has lived with the condition. Let’s look at a few medications that are commonly prescribed:
- Disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
DMARDs are medicines given for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, among other conditions. Generally taken as a pill, DMARDs work by helping preserve the joints and reduce inflammation by lowering the impact of the immune system that is malfunctioning. There are many different types of DMARDs; the one that the patient is given will depend on the severity of their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
The effect of DMARDs does not show up immediately. You would need to consume these for an extended period of time to see the results. You doctor will discuss with you how soon you can expect the results as well as whether there are any possible side-effects.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs are commonly prescribed to patients with arthritis as they are known to help tackle inflammation in the body. There are many different types of NSAIDs, and the type and dosage can vary between patients. NSAIDs do have certain side-effects, including belching and heart burn. They may also increase a patient’s risk of getting a heart attack.
- Other medications
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may also be given analgesics to deal with the pain and corticosteroids for inflammation. It is important to never try to medicate yourself. Always follow the exact prescription that the doctor has set for you.
- Surgery for rheumatoid arthritis
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis do not usually have to undergo surgery. However, if the prescribed medications fail to reduce joint pain significantly, they may need to get operated.
There are various surgical procedures that may be carried out to lessen joint pain and improve flexibility in movement. Some of the most common ones are joint replacement and synovectomy.
A synovectomy surgery is a procedure in which the inflamed portion of the joint is removed. This procedure aims to help reduce the pain experienced by the patient.
After surgery, the patient is generally advised to undergo physiotherapy to better understand how to move the joint safely. Do bear in mind that a synovectomy surgery does not cure rheumatoid arthritis. It simply helps the patient to manage the pain and discomfort. However, it is important to note that the removed portion of tissue may grow back, and the patient might require treatment in the same areas again.
A synovectomy surgery could be associated with certain complications, such as infection and bleeding at the site of surgery. Your doctor will discuss the possibilities of these complications and advise you how best to avoid them.
Arthrodesis is a surgical procedure in which two bones are attached or fused together. These bones belong to the joint that is impacted by the arthritic pain. Arthrodesis may be performed under local or general anesthesia. Recovery time may be longer, and some patients may take several months before they fully recuperate.
There is slight risk of infection and blood clots associated with joint fusion surgery. Screws and metal plates may be used as part of the surgery to keep the bones together. A joint fusion surgery is generally performed in the fingers, wrists, or feet, though it may be recommended for other parts of the body as well.
- Joint replacement
As indicated by the name of the procedure, the damaged portions of the affected joint are removed and replaced by prosthesis (artificial joint). The prosthesis can make a huge difference in enabling daily movements that were earlier not possible due to rheumatoid arthritis. The knee, shoulder, and hip are the joints which usually undergo joint replacement.
A doctor will determine whether you qualify for the joint replacement surgery. For instance, a total knee replacement surgery will only be recommended for patients who cannot perform basic tasks such as walking without difficulty, experience severe pain even while resting and have not experienced any relief from inflammation with medication. Patients whose pain is not debilitating in any way are generally not advised a knee replacement surgery. They may, instead, continue with medication and other forms of treatment.
A patient can take up to 3 months to resume normal activities after a joint replacement surgery. However, this period can vary based on the patient’s health and ability to cope. In some cases, complete recovery may take a bit longer time.
Complications of a joint replacement surgery can include infection and dislocation of the fitted prosthesis. Your doctor will caution you about all possible complications and advise you how to handle the situation.
There are many different types of implants used in joint replacement surgeries. Your doctor will decide which implant will be best suited to your unique condition. A good quality implant that has been successfully fitted can last for at least 10 – 15 years. Some implants may even last twice as long, for around two decades.
How to prepare for your surgery?
If you have been advised to undergo surgery for rheumatoid arthritis, there are a few things that you need to discuss with your doctor. Here are some questions that you may want to ask your doctor before you go on the operating table:
- How long will recovery take?
- Will you recommend a physiotherapist?
- How long will I have to stay in the hospital?
- Will my health insurance cover the cost of my operation?
- Will my current medication for other diseases / health conditions interfere in any way with my healing from the surgery?
- Are there any home modifications that I need to make for better recovery?
Do remember to take a friend or family member along with you on the day of the surgery for support.
The latest in knee replacement technology from Meril
Meril is a global medical device company that is based in India. Since it was founded in 2006, Meril has continually worked towards manufacturing state-of-the-art medical devices that help alleviate suffering from disease and promote better living.
The FREEDOM® Total Knee System has been created with advanced design engineering technologies as well as extensive clinical experience in order to cater to the physiological, anatomical, and lifestyle needs of the patient. It offers optimal high-ﬂexion motion in both the all-poly and metal-backed tibial component variants. The FREEDOM® Total Knee System is USFDA-approved.
OPULENT BIONIK GOLD KNEE is new patient technology from Meril. This knee implant system offers hope to young and aged patients who seek to be able to return to a normal life after treatment. Some of the benefits of the OPULENT BIONIK GOLD KNEE include absolute biocompatibility, allergy prevention, and superior abrasion resistance for longevity. It is also 8 times harder than regular CoCr implants and 2 times harder than the zirconium oxide implants. The OPULENT BIONIK GOLD KNEE is USFDA 510K cleared.
DESTIKNEE has a hi-flex design with all poly and metal back. It helps to preserve bone with its excellent fit. Deep anterior patellar cut-out permits good tendon clearance during deep flexion. DESTIKNEE knee system is USFDA 510K cleared.
Meril continues to strive to bring to you the latest in medical technology by designing and distributing devices which will provide true value to patients and doctors alike.
Lifestyle tips for patients living with rheumatoid arthritis
Living with a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis can be quite challenging. Fortunately, with the right treatment and medication, you can get relief from your symptoms and slow down the progress of the disease. There are also a few lifestyle tips that can help smoothen life with this health condition. Here they are –
- Practice recommended exercises
Your doctor or physiotherapist will recommend certain exercises that can be helpful in keeping your joints fit and active. While joint pain and stiffness can make the thought of movement uncomfortable, try to practice these exercises daily. You can try low intensity exercises such as walking. You may even consider getting a treadmill and walk indoors. Yoga can also help keep your joints active. However, before starting any new form of exercises – such as yoga – do speak with your doctor or physiotherapist so they can advise you whether there are certain positions that you must avoid. If any exercise form causes tremendous pain or discomfort, do not continue with it.
You may also want to speak to a physiotherapist about the amount of physical activity you are allowed in a day. You want to get enough to keep your joints healthy but avoid doing too much that can possibly injure your joints. A physiotherapist will be able to tell you how much exercise you need to get in a day as per your unique health condition and age.
- Maintain healthy weight
Obesity is one of the major risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis. If you are overweight, you should consider speaking to your doctor about how you can reduce your weight. A combination of diet and exercise can prove immensely helpful in shedding the extra kilograms. Remember that excess weight puts unnecessary pressure on your already ailing joints and can contribute to the onset of many other diseases.
A great way to understand your ideal weight is by checking your BMI (body mass index). The BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres. The ideal BMI lies between the range of 18.5 to 24.9. A BMI above that is considered overweight and any BMI figure that crosses 30.0 is considered as obese. If you are extremely overweight or obese, you may want to ask your doctor how best you can lose weight. Never follow any random crash diets as these can be detrimental to your overall wellbeing.
- Eat nutritious food
As we all know, the food that we eat plays an important role in our overall health and wellbeing. While there aren’t any particular foods that specifically help fight an onset of rheumatoid arthritis, there are certain foods that you can eat to keep your body healthy. For instance, you may want to increase your intake of foods that have omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are commonly found in fish such as tuna and salmon. Including more omega 3 fatty acids in your diet can help your body fight inflammation which is a common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. If you are a vegetarian, you can consume omega 3 fatty acids through chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
You may also want to include more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables will help you get a good intake of antioxidants which can help you fight inflammation too. Fruits and vegetables that are especially rich in antioxidants include apples, mangoes, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, grapes, apricots, Indian gooseberry, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, and lemons.
If you are unsure how to plan your meals so that you eat healthy, you may want to speak with a nutritionist. They will be able to guide to in creating a proper diet chart that will ensure you consume all essential food groups while also losing weight to stay fit.
- Be careful with daily movements
Rheumatoid arthritis can make it hard for you to perform tasks like before. Lifting a heavy object can prove to be challenging. You may also end up hurting yourself or dropping things if you put unnecessary pressure on your joints. Consider asking for help when lifting any heavy object, such as a shopping bag. Also, ask your physiotherapist if there are any restrictions on movements that you need to follow to minimise pressure on your joints.
- Relax and reduce stress
As discussed, stress can prove to be a major trigger for rheumatoid arthritis. An extended period of stress can end up worsening your symptoms. Try to take some time out to relax whenever you can manage to do so. Try meditating, reading a book, or indulging in a hobby that helps you relax. Keeping stress at bay will also improve your overall health.
If you are finding it tough to cope with stress on your own, you may want to consider seeking counselling. Counselling will help you get to the root cause of stress and teach you how to manage it in a healthier way that is good for your mind and body.
- Dealing with bone health
One of the major concerns of rheumatoid arthritis is the impact of the condition on bone health. There are concerns that patients might develop osteoporosis. It is recommended that patients go for regular check-ups so the doctor can track their bone health and see whether there is any bone loss as a result of rheumatoid arthritis. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis should consume a diet that is rich in Vitamin D and calcium for good bone health. They should eat foods such as milk and milk products, salmon, tuna, egg yolks, spinach, and kale. Do check with your doctor to ensure that increasing an intake of these foods does not hamper with your overall health or other medical conditions in any way.
- Hot and cold packs
A patient living with rheumatoid arthritis will have to deal with bouts of pain and discomfort every now and then. Heat packs can help with inflammation and cold packs can help reduce pain. Keep these at hand as they will provide relief at times when the pain becomes unbearable.
We cannot prevent an onset of rheumatoid arthritis, nor can we cure it. However, seeking treatment on time can prove immensely helpful in permitting the patient to better cope with the condition. Just like with any other disease, do make sure to follow the doctor’s advice and take all prescribed medications on time. Never apply extra pressure on the affected joints and report any new discomfort or changes in symptoms to your doctor immediately.
Finally, make sure to eat right and get plenty of exercise. There is a lot of good that can come out of a healthy lifestyle. Even if you already have a particular disease, making a few lifestyle changes can really improve prognosis and help you to cope better.
We hope this article has been an insightful read for you today.