With Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) increasingly affecting people from various age groups, the focus is on increasing the awareness on the risks associated with RA and how it can be prevented through early diagnosis and treatment
The limited awareness about this disease is a cause of concern as Rheumatoid Arthritis can lead to multiple complications if ignored. Research shows that the prognosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis depends on how early it is diagnosed andtreated with specific medicines. However, the word arthritis is linked with a number of myths and most people continue to believe that there is no treatment for arthritis and that it never settles.
What is it?Rheumatoid Arthritis is an auto immune disease where the immune system attacks the joints resulting in joint pain and swelling. If not treated in time, the joint damage is irreversible resulting in adverse pain and loss of movement. Although RA mostly affects women between 35-60 years of age, extensive studies carried out by industry experts suggest that the occurrence of this disease is rapidly increasing amongst children and young adults as well. The cause of this disease is still debatable and complex, involving an individual’s genes and environmental factors. The incidence of RA in Kochi is 1% on the whole compared to other cities in India. Maximum amount of patients come for treatment to a rheumatologist in the later stages. This disease often causes various other complications and if it is not treated on time, it can also lead to a high risk of heart diseases that include stroke, atrial fibrillation high blood pressure, heart failure and atherosclerosis.
“RA causes inflammation which causes blood vessels to narrow resulting in formation of plaque which is a mixture of matter like cholesterol, calcium which can also break and clog smaller vessels leading to a heart attack or a stroke,” says Dr Padmanabh Shenoy - Head of Department of Rheumatology, Amritha Institute of Medical Sciences Signs & SymptomsMore often than not, people dismiss Rheumatoid Arthritis as persistant pain, caused by poor posture or exhaustion. However, one needs to watch out for the following symptoms:
- Severe joint pain.
- Morning stiffness
- Difficulty in joint movement
- Joint swelling
If you spot any of these symptoms, it is important to visit your doctor immediately, particularly if they have been troubling you for a prolonged period. It is important to get yourself checked if you experience even the slightest discomfort and avoid delayed diagnosis.
Dr Shenoy rightly says, “If you have experience unexplained pain in your joints for more than a couple of weeks, it is time you consult a Rheumatologist” Treatment for RAThe first and most significant question on the minds of RA patients is the duration of the course of treatment for RA. Unfortunately, RA is a chronic disease which can be treated but not completely cured. If diagnosed in the first three months, there is a possibility of the disease being cured.