Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. In RA, for reasons no one fully understands, the immune system – which is designed to protect our health by attacking foreign cells such as viruses and bacteria – instead attacks the body’s own tissues, specifically the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints. As a result of the attack, fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain in the joints and inflammation that’s systemic – meaning it can occur throughout the body. Symptoms : Pain, morning stiffness, swelling, and systemic symptoms are common. Other rheumatoid symptoms include:

  • Swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joint, even when it is not being used
  • A feeling of warmth around the joint
  • Deformities and contractures of the joint 
  • Symptoms throughout the body, such as fever, loss of appetite and decreased energy 
  • Weakness due to a low red blood cell count (anemia) 
  • Nodules, or lumps, particularly around the elbow 
  • Foot pain, bunions, and hammer toes with long-standing disease

Investigations: Medical history A blood test may reveal an antibody called rheumatoid factor. This is an indicator of rheumatoid arthritis. X-rays can help show the progression of the disease. The American College of Rheumatology requires at least four of the following seven criteria to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Morning stiffness around the joint that lasts at least 1 hour
  • Arthritis of three or more joints for at least 6 weeks
  • Arthritis of hand joints for at least 6 weeks 
  • Arthritis on both sides of the body for at least 6 weeks 
  • Rheumatoid nodules under the skin 
  • Rheumatoid factor present in blood testing 
  • Evidence of rheumatoid arthritis on X-rays