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RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS

The Facts Put Simply.

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Learn About Rheumatoid Arthritis and Equip Yourself to Fight Back!




Subject matter Quick Links for this page…

1) What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
2) Rheumatoid Arthritis Facts
3) Who is at risk to get Rheumatoid Arthritis?
4) Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
5) Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
6) What can you do to prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis?
7) What can you do to combat Rheumatoid Arthritis?
8) What are the potential complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis?


What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune disease. It is a chronic (long-term) form of Arthritis that causes inflammation of the joints and the surrounding tissues and it can involve other body organs also.


* The synovial membrane lines the joints and secretes fluid which serves to lubricate the joint to enable movement.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis Facts:

• Is categorized as an autoimmune disease because the body’s own immune system attacks the joints synovial membranes
• Can also affect other organs
• RA is the second most common form of arthritis which affects about 2.1 million Americans
• Women are three times more likely than men to be afflicted
• The course and severity of RA differs from person to person
• People with rheumatoid factor (a protein that can activate various inflammatory processes within the body) or subcutaneous nodules (skin lumps) appear to suffer from a more severe form of RA
• People who develop RA at a younger age usually have a more rapidly progressive course
• You are most likely to go into remission in the first year with the probability decreasing over time. Approximately 20% of people will experience a remission within 10 to 15 years of their diagnosis
• 50 - 70% of patients are able to continue to work full-time
• After 15-20 years with the disease, 10% of patients find themselves severely disabled, and unable to do simple tasks such as cleaning themselves, dressing, and eating
• The average life expectancy of an RA patient is typically shortened by 3 to 7 years
• Those with severe forms of RA may have their lifespan reduced by 10-15 years
• The pattern of joints affected is usually symmetrical - with wrists, fingers, knees, feet, and ankles being the most commonly affected

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Who is at risk to get Rheumatoid Arthritis?

• RA can occur at any age
• It usually occurs in people between the ages of 25 and 55
• Women are affected three times more often than men

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What are the Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

• A definitive cause for rheumatoid arthritis has yet to be discovered
• RA is considered an autoimmune disease because the body's immune system, which normally fights off foreign substances like viruses, in this case confuses healthy tissue for a foreign substance. The result is that the immune system attacks the lining, or synovial membrane, of the joints. The result is that the body in effect, destroys itself
• Infection, genes, and hormones can also contribute to causing the disease

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What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

As a result of this disease causing the body to turn against itself, the number of resultant symptoms is extremely large and unpredictable.

Below are some of the more common symptoms which may or may not be present.

• Usually begins gradually with fatigue
• Morning stiffness (lasting more than one hour)
• Widespread muscle aches
• Loss of appetite & resultant weight loss
• Whole body weakness
• Joint pain
• Sedentary joints can become warm, tender, and stiff
• Swollen joints
• Anemia may occur due to failure of the bone marrow to produce enough new red cells
• Joint destruction may occur within 1-2 years after the on set of RA
• Limited range of motion
• Inflammation of the lungs
• Swollen glands
• Eye complications such as burning and itching eyes that discharge
• Affected joints quite often becomes distinctively deformed and crippled by RA

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What can you do to prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis?

• There are no widely accepted preventative measures for RA at present. However, it is often possible to minimize damage of the joints with early diagnosis and proper treatment
• Eye complications are a concern with RA so patients are advised to have regular eye exams

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What can you do to combat Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The treament of RA is most often a lifelong endevour that should include a multi faceted approach. Key to successfully combating RA is early, and aggressive treatment which has been shown to delay joint destruction and reduce pain

Medication: (click this link to learn more)
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the medical community will often implement aggressive therapy drawing from a wide range of pharmaceutical drugs. Unfortunately, the vast majority of pharmaceutical drugs have proven to promote severe side effects (such as toxicity, heart risks, and ulcers to name a few) and as such they must be administered only under the very diligent supervision of a qualified medical and experienced professional.

The more popular drugs being prescribed are:

o Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as Methotrexate (Rheumatrex) which is the most commonly used
o Anti-inflammatory agents (Salicylates) such as aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), fenoprofen, indomethacin, and naproxen (Naprosyn)
o COX-2 inhibitors such as Celecoxib (Celebrex)
o Antimalarial medications such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine) are also used in conjunction with methotrexate
o Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors are a faily new class of medications used to treat autoimmune disease. They include etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade), and adalimumab (Humira)
o Another relatively new medication is injectable anakinra (Kineret), which is a man-made protein that blocks the inflammatory protein interleukin-1. The drug is used to slow the progression of moderate to severe active RA in patients over 18 who have not responded to one or more of the DMARDs
o Other drugs that suppress the immune system, like azathioprine (Imuran) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), are sometimes used in people who have failed other therapies
o Corticosteroids are an old standard that have been used to reduce inflammation in RA for more than 40 years

Natural Supplementation: (click this link to learn more)

Natural supplements can fill a deficiency in a person’s diet and add that extra kick to a persons diet to ensure that your body has the essential building blocks and nutrients that it requires to repair and maintain healthy joints. The research and the results have proven that supplementation can have a dramatically beneficial effect on joint health without the risk of dangerous side effects.

Diet: (click this link to learn more)

A good diet is essential to maintaining overall joint and body health and is key to combating joint diseases.

Surgery:
In rare instances surgery is needed to correct severely impacted joints. The goal of such surgery is to relieve joint pain, correct deformities, and improve joint function.

o The first surgical treatment is a synovectomy, which is the removal of the synovium (the joint lining)
o A follow-up surgical treatment is the replacement of a joint with a joint prosthesis (artificial hip for example). In extreme cases this can mean the difference between being totally dependent on others versus being able to be somewhat independent and living on ones own
o The most successful and frequent surgeries are those performed on the knees and hips

Exercise and Physical Therapy:(click this link to learn more)

Range-of-motion exercises and individualized exercise programs prescribed by a physical therapist can delay and even reverse the loss of joint function.

Prosorba Column:
The Prosorba Column device is used to treat moderate to severe RA in adults who have a cronic RA which has not responded to DMARDs. The procedure removes inflammatory antibodies from the blood and is done once a week for 12 weeks and takes 2-3 hours per session.
Studies have suggested that RA slows down or stops getting worse in about 30 to 50% of the people who receive the treatment.
The reported side effects include anemia, fatigue, fever, low blood pressure, nausea and an infrequent infection from the tube used to remove the blood.

Other:

o Heat and cold treatments can help to control swelling and to manage of joint pain
o Protecting joints with splints or orthotic devices is beneficial
o Lots of rest including 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, naps and rest periods between activities are recommended

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Complications:

• The cervical spine may become unstable as a result of RA
• Rheumatoid vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) is a serious , potentially life-threatening complication of RA. It can lead to skin ulcerations and infections, bleeding stomach ulcers, and nerve problems that cause pain, numbness, or tingling. Vasculitis may also affect the brain, nerves, and heart, which can cause stroke, heart attack, or heart failure
• RA may cause the the outer lining of the heart to swell (pericarditis) and cause heart complications. Inflammation of the heart muscle, called myocarditis, can also develop. Both of these conditions can lead to congestive heart failure
• The medical treatments for RA can also cause serious side effects
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