Rheumatoid arthritis - symptoms, treatment and nutrition

Rheumatoid arthritis - symptoms, treatment and nutrition

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic systemic disease of the connective tissue that is most commonly localized to the joints but can also manifest (but less frequently) in the muscles, skin, and visceral organs (abdominal organs).


It affects all joints except the spine. There is inflammation of the joints, their swelling, soreness, stiffness and loss of function.


The number of people diagnosed during the year is around 40 per 100,000 inhabitants, while the total number of people affected is about 1% of the population - one in every hundred people suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.


Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-standing joint disease.


Rheumatoid arthritis - causes

The causes of rheumatoid arthritis are still unknown, but the development of this disease is related to a combination of several factors:


abnormal autoimmune response,

genetic predisposition,

viral or bacterial infection.

The process begins in a synovia (membrane) that wraps the wrist to form a "protective bag". This bag is filled with joint lubricant called synovial fluid. In addition to protecting the joints, it feeds the cartilage with the necessary substances and oxygen. Cartilage is made of collagen (a protein) that supports the joints.


In rheumatoid arthritis, a permanent inflammatory process that engages the synovium gradually destroys collagen, reducing the space in the joint and ultimately destroying the bone itself.


In the case of progressive rheumatoid arthritis, the destruction of cartilage is accelerated when fluid and inflammatory cells accumulate in the synovium, forming an outgrowth consisting of thickened synovial tissue. This growth destroys the cartilage and attracts more inflammatory cells, which keeps the inflammatory process constantly repeated - this process damages other (visceral) organs in the body.


Risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis include cigarette smoking and obesity and various infections (inflammation of the gums with Porphyromonas gingivalis or infections with different viruses).


It most commonly develops between the ages of 30 and 60, and it increases with age. It is more common in women than in men.


In more severe cases, rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to a functional limitation of the person, but timely diagnosis and proper treatment can reduce the risk of serious complications.


The disease usually affects the small joints (joints of the hands and feet), but it can also affect the joints of the knees, ankles, neck, etc. Sometimes the disease is not limited to the joints, but can cause systemic inflammation - heart muscle, blood vessel tissue and subcutaneous tissue.


Patients with rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease - angina, heart attack, and peripheral blood vessel disease (risk of atherosclerosis).


Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

In most cases, rheumatoid arthritis develops gradually but may progressively. This disease can be triggered by a certain stressful event, but it most often occurs without any cause.


The disease only exceptionally starts with acute, sudden attacks, which is usually characterized by severe inflammation of one or more joints.


The most common symptoms that accompany rheumatoid arthritis are:


nausea, weight loss and fever - initial signs of RA,

most often symmetrical (but may be stronger on one side, depending on which hand is dominant or more commonly used) swelling and joint pain - at least six weeks before diagnosis,

a feeling of warmth of the joints to the touch,

joint deformities: ulnar deviation, subluxations, flexor contractures, etc.,

inflammation of the end arteries that causes subcutaneous nodules or nodules, usually in the surrounding area of the elbow,

soft tissue spindles around diseased joints - fluid buildup (especially in the knees), in rare cases in the joint sac behind the knee (Baker's cyst) and sometimes in the area of the leg leaf where it causes pain.

In severe cases, swollen and deformed joints will partially or completely disintegrate. This can cause great difficulty when walking or moving your hands.


If you notice symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, see a doctor who will examine your joints.


Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis

It often takes a long time to get past the onset of symptoms (before reporting to a doctor), especially if the initial symptoms are not very pronounced - non-specific joint problems and joint pain.


It is only when the joints become swollen, red and sore that the suspicion of arthritis or inflammation becomes easier.


X-rays and special blood tests are generally the main tests to diagnose. However, sometimes observing a person for several months is the only way to make a diagnosis.


Typical presentation of rheumatoid arthritis involves symmetrically right and left fists, wrists and metacarpophalangeal joints, and small joints of the feet.


The new classification system for rheumatoid arthritis attempts to focus on the earlier stages of the disease associated with the need to establish an early diagnosis and introduce effective disease control therapies to prevent and reduce undesirable consequences or complications.


From laboratory tests, elevated parameters of acute inflammation (C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate) are used. Rheumatoid factor (RF) and specific antibodies to cyclic citrullinated protein (anti-CCP) are also isolated.


X-rays of the hands and feet are also used to determine the aggressiveness of the disease (the existence of bone damage).


In order to achieve the goals of treating rheumatoid arthritis, the risk of organ failure is defined as the most serious side effect, and all doctors are advised to further educate individuals about useful strategies for achieving a normal life and minimizing any adverse effects.


Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

The treatment of rheumatic diseases is mainly symptomatic and is focused on:


control of immune response,

reduction of pain and inflammation,

prevention of damage to bones and joint ligaments; and

increasing joint mobility.

RA is treated with medication and lifestyle changes.


In the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis the most commonly used are:


non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),


corticosteroids (glucocorticoids),

immunosuppressants and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers,

biological remedies (administration to veins or subcutaneous injections).


Initially, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually used to relieve pain, but should not be taken for longer than 30 to 60 days as they can cause various side effects (indigestion and gastrointestinal bleeding).


Learn more about rheumatoid arthritis in the video at the link.


If these drugs prove to be insufficient, therapy can be supplemented with antirheumatic drugs that are more effective and have long-term improvements in physical function, but are usually slow-acting.


Some experts suggest that people with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis start treatment with anti-rheumatics immediately, especially if:


slight progression,

involvement of the parts of the body with the exclusion of the joints,

high levels of rheumatoid factor.

The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis should be more aggressive in the early stages of the disease so as to prevent deformities and permanent damage to the cartilage, joints and bones.


Corticosteroids are also used to reduce inflammation and reduce joint damage, which can improve the condition in the short term, but long-term administration can cause serious side effects, and with this type of therapy loses its effectiveness over time.


Physical therapy plays a key role in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, noting that it is recommended that targeted therapy be performed only after the systemic inflammation has been quenched with medication to achieve an effect on joint structures.


The physical therapy program is determined by a specialist in physical medicine after examining the findings of the treatment and radiological recordings of the patient.


Research on rheumatoid arthritis patients has shown that there is a growing need to define the genetic background for this type of disease to advance pharmacological therapies in serious clinical situations.


Treatment decisions for this disease should be made by doctors and patients through a joint decision-making process, taking into account the patient's values and the circumstances in which he or she is found. In any case, the goal is to alleviate the symptoms and provide people with a normal life with as few complications as possible.


Untreated rheumatoid arthritis leads to permanent damage to the cartilage and bones of the joints (erosion) and consequently to loss of joint function and reduced quality of life.


Nutrition in rheumatoid arthritis

Regular exercise, a healthy diet and weight control are of the utmost importance in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Overweight people are advised to lose weight to relieve symptoms.


In addition, a person should start physiotherapy as soon as possible, since the early start of therapy helps to maintain function and independence longer.


As for nutrition, people with rheumatoid arthritis are advised to:


foods low in saturated fat and high in antioxidants - especially black berries, cherries and fresh pineapple containing the enzyme bromelain (works to reduce inflammation) and from vegetables kale, spinach and peppers;

foods rich in iron - broccoli, kale, sprouts, cauliflower, peas, fish, etc .;

foods rich in sulfur, which is essential for the construction of cartilage, connective tissue and bones and helps in the absorption of calcium - asparagus, eggs, garlic and onions, etc .;

foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (especially flaxseeds);

foods rich in iodine and those that stimulate the liver and detoxify the blood;

cold-pressed and unrefined oils (especially olive);

amino acids (histidine) - rice, rye and wheat.

Learn about natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis.


People with rheumatoid arthritis should avoid:


foods rich in saturated fat,

milk and milk products,

preservatives and food additives,

refined food, bread and pasta,

large quantities of red meat - fish, light white chicken and turkey meat are recommended instead,

alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, citrus,

salt and sugar-rich foods.

Patients with arthritis are advised to stay in the fresh air and sun, since this accelerates the synthesis of vitamin D, which is essential for proper function and synthesis of calcium in the joints.


Natural treatment and self-help methods for rheumatoid arthritis

You can prepare a bitter salt bath to relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis problems can be alleviated with the essential oils of chamomile and lavender.

Blueberry and cypress oil will reduce swelling.

Roman chamomile and kayout are effective in eliminating pain (do not use cypress and kayout oil if you are pregnant).

Prepare a hot bath of two drops of lavender oil. In case of intense bath pain, also add two drops of kayeput oil.

Prepare the oil for the painful area from two drops of blueberry oil, black pepper and Roman camomile oil, and at least five drops of lavender oil and 10 tablespoons of olive oil or jojoba oil. This mixture should be used daily.

Rheumatoid arthritis teas: celery seed tea, frog tea, thyme tea, nettle or coriander tea, and two or three dandelion tea. Instructions for making these teas can be found on the packaging.

Twice two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar twice a day in a glass of hot water seasoned with honey.


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