Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-lasting inflammatory disorder that primarily affects the joints, but can also affect other systems of the body. This is an autoimmune disease, which means the immune system of the body attacks itself. In rheumatoid arthritis, the lining of the joint capsule is affected.
The precise cause of this disease is not known, but genetics are thought to play a role in making an individual more susceptible to the development of the disease.
The synovial membrane that lines the joint capsule is attacked by antibodies formed by the body’s own immune system. This leads to swelling or the synovial membrane, which eventually leads to the destruction of bone and cartilage under the synovial membrane.
The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can include:
- Tender and swollen joints (smaller joints are affected first, as the disease progresses, it starts involving larger joints)
- Joint stiffness that is worse in the morning
- Weight loss
Sometimes other systems of the body may also be affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Some body organs that may be affected are listed below:
Some of the following blood tests and imaging tests are helpful in confirming the diagnosis of Rheumatoid arthritis:
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
- Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (Anti-CCP) antibodies
- Joint X-ray
- Joint MRI
- Joint Ultrasound
The following medications can be used to slow the progression of the disease, however complete cure is not likely:
- Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
- Biologic agents (Adalimumab, Rituximab, etc)
Surgical methods are implemented when the patient is not showing any improvement on medications. The following surgical procedures are implemented in Rheumatoid arthritis:
- Tendon repair
- Joint fusion
- Total joint replacement