Rheumatoid Arthritis – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Senior Medical Care Glossary

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints. It occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium, the lining of the membranes that surround the joints. This results in inflammation, pain, and swelling in the affected joints. RA can also affect other organs in the body, such as the heart, lungs, and eyes. It is a progressive disease that can lead to joint deformity and disability if left untreated.

What are the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:
– Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity
– Fatigue
– Fever
– Weight loss
– Loss of appetite
– Joint deformity
– Limited range of motion
– Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet

RA symptoms typically occur in a symmetrical pattern, meaning that if one joint is affected, the corresponding joint on the other side of the body is also affected. The severity of symptoms can fluctuate, with periods of flare-ups and remission.

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosed?

Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis can be challenging because its symptoms can mimic other conditions. A healthcare provider will typically perform a physical exam, review the patient’s medical history, and order blood tests to check for markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). Imaging tests, such as X-rays and MRI scans, may also be used to assess joint damage.

The American College of Rheumatology has established criteria for diagnosing RA, which include the presence of joint pain, swelling, and stiffness lasting for at least six weeks, along with the presence of specific antibodies in the blood.

What are the treatment options for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis aims to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, prevent joint damage, and improve overall quality of life. Common treatment options include:
– Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biologic agents can help manage RA symptoms and slow disease progression.
– Physical therapy: Exercises and stretches can help improve joint flexibility, strength, and function.
– Lifestyle modifications: Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and managing stress can help reduce RA symptoms.
– Surgery: In severe cases, joint replacement surgery may be necessary to restore function and mobility.

It is important for individuals with RA to work closely with their healthcare team to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and goals.

What are the complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis can lead to various complications, including:
– Joint damage and deformity: Over time, RA can cause irreversible damage to the joints, leading to deformities and limited mobility.
– Osteoporosis: Chronic inflammation in RA can increase the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis.
– Cardiovascular disease: RA is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions.
– Lung disease: RA can cause inflammation in the lungs, leading to conditions such as interstitial lung disease and pulmonary fibrosis.
– Infections: RA and its treatments can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections.

Regular monitoring and early intervention can help prevent or manage these complications in individuals with RA.

How can seniors manage Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Seniors with Rheumatoid Arthritis can take steps to manage their condition and improve their quality of life. Some tips for managing RA in seniors include:
– Regular exercise: Low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, and yoga, can help improve joint flexibility and strength.
– Healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help reduce inflammation and support overall health.
– Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce stress on the joints and improve mobility.
– Stress management: Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness can help seniors cope with the emotional and physical challenges of RA.
– Support: Joining a support group or working with a counselor can provide seniors with RA the emotional support and resources they need to manage their condition effectively.

By following these tips and working closely with their healthcare team, seniors with Rheumatoid Arthritis can lead active and fulfilling lives despite their condition.