If you or a loved one is suspected of having Rheumatoid Arthritis, then you might have a few questions regarding this disease. In this article, we will cover the most frequently asked questions about Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Table of Content
- What's Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause
- How Rheumatoid Arthritis is Diagnosed
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Methotrexate
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Corticosteroids
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Biologics
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Exercises
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Disability Aids
- Rheumatoid Arthritis References
What's Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune condition, where your body's natural self defence system attacks your own tissues, causing inflammation in your joints.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
The most common symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis are joint pain, joint swelling, and joint stiffness (especially in the morning, or when sitting for long periods of time).
These often start in small joints such as your hands and feet, but can occur in any joints in the body.
Other less common symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Dry eyes
- Chest Pain
Some people also develop fleshy lumps under the skin of affected joints known as 'Rheumatoid Nodules'.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause
The exact causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis are unknown but researchers believe there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing the disease such as:
- Age. Although Rheumatoid Arthritis an occur at any age, it is more common in adults over 60 years of age.
- Sex. Women are 2-3 times more likely to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis than men.
- Genetics. If you are born with Human Leukocyte Antigen Class II genes, then you are more likely to have Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Smoking. Studies have shown that smokers are more likely to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Obesity. The higher your weight, the greater the likelihood of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Diet. There is some evidence to suggest that eating too much red meat, and not consuming enough Vitamin C can increase the risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
How Rheumatoid Arthritis is Diagnosed
Rheumatoid Arthritis is diagnosed by a Rheumatologist, and is based on a physical examination, your symptoms, and the results of blood tests, x-rays and scans.
Features suggesting you might have Rheumatoid Arthritis include:
- Family history of inflammatory arthritis
- Early morning stiffness lasting longer than 1 hour
- Swelling in five or more joints
- Symmetry of the areas affected
- Bilateral compression tenderness of the metatarsophalangeal joints
- RF positivity
- Anti-CCP antibody test positivity
- Symptoms present for longer than 6 weeks
- Bony erosions evident on X-rays of the wrists, hands or feet (uncommon in early disease)
- Raised inflammatory markers, such as CRP or ESR, in the absence of infection
- Presence of rheumatoid nodules
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
Medications for Rheumatoid Arthritis usually include the use of medicines that slow the disease and prevent joint deformity such as Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs), Corticosteroids, and Biological Disease Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (bDMARDs).
Rheumatoid Arthritis Methotrexate
Methotrexate is the DMARD of choice for most patients and often forms the backbone of the regimen when combination therapy is required.
The usual dosage of methotrexate is:
- Methotrexate 10mg orally once a week (increasing gradually up to 25mg if required depending on blood test results) PLUS folic acid 5-10mg weekly (not on the same day as methotrexate).
Hydroxychloroquine or Sulfasalazine may be used in combination with Methotrexate if patient has low grade inflammation, few affected joints and no indicators of poor prognosis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Corticosteroids
As DMARDs can take 6-12 weeks for adequate response to be achieved, some doctor may opt to prescribe Corticosteroids such as Methylprednisolone or Prednisolone due to treat flares rapidly.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Biologics
If your Rheumatoid Arthritis is not controlled by conventional synthetic DMARDS such as Methotrexate, your Rheumatologist, may prescribed Biologics.
The most common Biologics prescribed is: Adalimumab (Humira) 40mg subcutaneously every 2 weeks.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Exercises
Inactivity can lead to stiff joints, weak muscles and weight gain, which can worsen Rheumatoid Arthritis.
It is recommended you consider doing gentle exercises such Yoga, Tai chi, Gentle Cycling or Aqua Aerobics, which put less strain on your joints.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Disability Aids
Rheumatoid Arthritis may make it more difficult for you to do every day tasks, but fortunately there are various mobility aids that can help improve your quality of life such as:
Rheumatoid Arthritis References
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/rheumatoid-arthritis.html.
- Versus Arthritis (2018). Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). [online] Versus Arthritis. Available at: https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/.
- tgldcdp.tg.org.au. (n.d.). Therapeutic guidelines > Therapeutic Guidelines | Therapeutic Guidelines. [online] Available at: https://tgldcdp.tg.org.au/viewTopic?topicfile=rheumatoid-arthritis&guidelineName=Rheumatology&topicNavigation=navigateTopic#toc_d1e513 [Accessed 29 May 2022].