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Arthritis

About Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

What causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Who gets Rheumatoid Arthritis?

What happens in Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Symptoms

How is it treated?

RAMS Therapy Centre and Arthritis

Arthritis

 

About Arthritis

Arthritis means inflammation of the joints. A joint is an area of the body where two different bones meet. Joints allow movement and flexibility of various parts of the body. Most people with arthritis will experience joint pain (arthralgia) and difficulty moving around.

Over nine million people in the UK have arthritis. There are many different types (over 100). The most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis is not just a disease of older people, it can affect people of all ages, including children. It is not clear what causes arthritis and there is no cure at present. However, there are treatments available to help people manage their condition and lead a full and active life.

 

Rheumatoid arthritis

 

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease, mainly affecting joints and tendons, and in some cases other parts of the body as well, including the blood, the lungs, and the heart. Inflammation of the joint lining, called the synovium, can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, warmth, and redness. The affected joint may also lose its shape, resulting in loss of normal movement. RA is usually a chronic relapsing condition. Chronic means that it is persistent. Relapsing means that at times the disease flares-up (relapses), and at other times it settles down (remission) with little or no symptoms.

RA is the most common form of arthritis, affecting around 1 in 100 people in the UK.

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but there are treatments available to help relieve the inflammation and debilitating symptoms.

 

What causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system starts to attack the body instead of defending it. In this case, the immune system attacks the joints and sometimes other parts of the body. It’s not yet known why the immune system acts in this way in some people. It is thought that certain genes may trigger the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Environmental factors may also contribute to the cause of the disease. Researchers have found that RA can be triggered by an infection, possibly a virus or bacterium, in people who have an inherited tendency for the disease. However, RA is not contagious; you can't "catch it" from anyone.

 

Who gets Rheumatoid Arthritis?

It is not known why rheumatoid arthritis occurs. People of any age can develop it, but it is most common between the ages of 30 and 50 years, and among women. Three times as many women are affected as men.

 

What happens in Rheumatoid Arthritis?

In RA, the joints become inflamed, particularly: -

  • the thin synovial membrane that lines the joint capsule

  • the tendon sheaths (tubes in which the tendons move)

  • the bursae (sacs of fluid that allow the muscles and tendons to move smoothly over one another)

Inflammation of the joint lining leads to pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function. At times, the inflammation worsens - known as ‘flare up’, when the joints become warm and red as blood flow to the area increases. Inflammation of the joint can also damage the cartilage and bone. The cartilage can become eroded or worn and the bone underneath may become thinned.

Although RA is often a chronic disease, the severity and duration of the symptoms may unpredictably come and go. For people with a severe case of RA, the disease is generally active, lasts for many years, and leads to serious joint damage and disability. Periods of increased disease activity, or worsening of symptoms, are called flare-ups or flares. Periods of remission are when the symptoms fade or disappear.

Most people with RA have this pattern of flare-ups followed by better spells. In some people, months or even years may go by between flare-ups. Some damage may be done to affected joints during each flare-up. The amount of disability which develops usually depends on how much damage is done over time to the affected joints.

In a minority of cases the disease is constantly progressive, and severe joint damage and disability can develop quite quickly.

The most commonly affected joints are the small joints of the fingers, thumbs, wrists, feet, and ankles. The knees are also quite commonly affected. Less commonly the hips, shoulders, elbows, and neck are involved. It is often symmetrical. So, for example, if a joint is affected in a right arm, the same joint in the left arm is also often affected. In some people, just a few joints are affected. In others, many joints are involved.

As RA progresses, about 25% of people with the disease develop small lumps of tissue under the skin, called rheumatoid nodules. These rheumatoid nodules usually aren't painful. The nodules may form under the skin of the elbow, hands, the back of the scalp, over the knee, or on the feet and heels. They can be as small as a pea to as large as a walnut.

 

Symptoms

Symptoms of RA differ from person to person but can generally include:

  • Joint tenderness, warmth and swelling. Both sides of the body are usually affected at the same time. This is also called a 'symmetrical pattern' of inflammation. For example, if one knee is affected, the other one is also. This is in contrast to osteoarthritis, where it is possible for only one knee to be affected.

  • Pain and stiffness lasting for more than 1 hour in the morning or after a long rest

  • Joint inflammation in the wrist and finger joints closest to the hand (although joints of the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, and feet can be affected as well).

  • Fatigue, an occasional fever, and a general sense of not feeling well (called malaise).

Pain is one of the commonest symptoms of arthritis. Arthritis is painful because inflammation in the joints causes swelling and produces heat, which leads to pain.

Pain induces stress, which causes the muscles around the joint to tense to protect the joint, which can lead to further pain.

Fatigue is also very common for people with arthritis, and it can make dealing with pain much harder. Pain + tiredness = frustration, stress and sometimes depression.

 

How is it treated?

Treating inflammation as quickly as possible is vital because once joint damage has occurred it cannot be reversed.

Most people with arthritis will be prescribed some kind of pain relieving or disease controlling drug. These include:

  • painkillers (analgesics) in the form of tablets or gels

  • steroids to reduce inflammation

  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and inflammation

  • narcotics for severe pain

  • disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to slow down the progression of arthritis

  • biologics like anti-TNFs to target specific parts of the immune system that causes inflammation

Joint replacement surgery will only be considered if the joint is very painful or if there is a risk that you will lose overall function.

Other treatment strategies include physiotherapy, exercise and massage; flowtron therapy; hyperbaric oxygen therapy; electromagnetic therapy; vibrotherapy and complementary approaches to relieve pain, inflammation and fatigue; improve flexibility, movement and posture, to minimise disability and to retain as much independence as possible.

 

 

RAMS Therapy Centre and Arthritis

 

RAMS Therapy Centre provides a range of therapies, designed specifically for Arthritis. Follow the links below for further information on these treatments. Therapies will be provided individually as stand-alone treatments or offered in combination. Each person will be assessed and advised on a suitable treatment programme.

Note: permission from your doctor or consultant is required before treatment begins.

 

 

                                                  Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

                 Physiotherapy

        Flowtron Therapy

              Electromagnetic Stimulation Therapy

               Vibrotherapy