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Arthritis Explained

Rheumatoid Arthritis



What is a Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis affects approximately 1% of the population, with women affected more often than men. Rheumatoid Arthritis is most common between 40 and 70 years of age.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is thought to be caused by a faulty immune response which causes inflammation of the Synovial Membrane that encloses the affected joints. This causes pain and swelling in the joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis most commonly affects the knuckles, thumbs, wrists and can also affect the hips, knees, elbows and shoulders. The affected joints become inflamed, swollen and painful.

How does Rheumatoid Arthritis cause Pain?

The specific cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is still unknown. One theory is that antigens and antibodies that are normally involved in fighting infection increase in numbers and release inflammatory chemicals which cause inflammation of the joints.

This inflammation causes a marked increase in blood vessels to the membrane that surrounds the joint, a thickening of this membrane and an increase in inflammatory fluid within the membrane. The disease process can also affect tendons around the affected joint, causing pain and weakness.

The course of Rheumatoid Arthritis varies greatly among individuals. Some people can have severe flare ups that cause severe joint damage, while other people have relatively mild symptoms.

What should you do if you suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Early diagnosis and a referral to a Rheumatologist are essential. The modern approach to drug therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis involves early prescription of Disease Modifying Anti Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs). These minimise the early joint damage then the more disabling symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis can be minimised.

Physiotherapy treatment is also helpful. Exercises therapy is important to maintain joint range of movement, muscle strength and flexibility. The specific exercises can be formulated by your Charted Physiotherapist. Many people with Rheumatoid Arthritis find that exercises in water, with the help of a Bouyancy Belt, can be beneficial.

Your physiotherapist will also be able to give advice about the use of splints and braces to support the joints that are affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis. Splints and braces can relieve pain and prevent the formation of contractures in the tissue that surrounds the joint.

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