Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the most common autoimmune disorders, which causes chronic inflammation in multiple joints. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system attacks your joints. It damages the joint linings, which ultimately leads toe bone erosion and joint deformity. RA commonly affects the small joints such as wrists, hands, elbows, knees, ankles, and feet. In some patients, this condition can also affect other organ systems such as skin, eyes, heart and lungs. RA is commonly seen in people in between 20-40years of age and most cases are reported in women.
Symptoms of arthritis
You may not experience any signs and symptoms in the early phase of the disease. However, chronic RA is marked by the following symptoms:
- Stiffness of the joints that gets worsened during mornings
- Swelling at the joints
- Loss of joint function
- Joint pain and tenderness
- Joint deformity
- Redness and warmth at the joint
- Decreased joint range of motion
- Weight loss
Joint deformity due to RA
Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis
If you have excess pain and swelling in the small joints, consult your doctor. Your doctor may recommend a few tests to confirm RA:
Blood tests help in detecting inflammation and a specific set of antibodies that may indicate rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid factor (RF) – This test helps in detecting the RF antibodies in the bloodstream. 80% of the people with rheumatoid arthritis have RF antibodies. The normal range of RF antibodies in the blood is not more than 40 – 60 u/ml. An increase in the RF antibodies number confirms positive test for rheumatoid arthritis.
Anti CCP-antibodies – Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) is an antibody that can lead to inflammatory symptoms. It is found in 60-80% of the patients with RA. The presence of RF and anti-CCP antibodies in the blood confirm the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
Antinuclear antibody – ANA antibodies are present in the patients with autoimmune disorders. RA is suspected if high levels of ANA are observed.
Complete blood count (CBC) – This helps to evaluate the conditions like anemia (decreased Red blood cells and hemoglobin), and infection (increase in white blood cells). Abnormal CBC results are usually seen in the patients with RA.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) – A sample of blood is collected in a tube and the settling rate of red blood cells is measured over the course of an hour. A high sedimentation indicates inflammation. Other conditions like infection and anemia can cause elevated ESR levels.
C-reactive protein (CRP) – CRP is a protein that is produced by the liver. A rise in the CRP levels is noticed when there is an inflammation in the body. However, CRP test cannot confirm the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
X-ray – X-ray radiographs help in the clinical evaluation of RA. It helps to assess the severity of joint damage and bone erosion. It also indicates the presence of joint deformity. .
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – It gives a detailed image of the joint and the surrounding structures. MRI is useful to evaluate the extent of joint damage.
How to treat rheumatoid arthritis?
There is no specific cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis aims to minimize the symptoms like pain, inflammation, and damage caused to the joints.
Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids are used to reduce pain and inflammation. Anti-rheumatic drugs slow down the progression of the disease and prevent further damage.
Physical therapy aims in relieving pain and increasing joint range of motion. The doctor would prescribe specific exercises, which help in strengthening the muscles around the joint and keep your joints stable.
Surgeries such as synovectomy, tendon repair, joint fusion and joint replacement can be recommended to correct joint deformities.
Healthy diet: Foods rich in antioxidants help to control inflammation. A diet rich in fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, and olive oil helps in reducing inflammation.
Physical activity Exercise helps in increasing flexibility of the joints. Aerobics and muscle strengthening helps to improve the fitness level and strengthen the muscles that support the joints.
Control weight: Being overweight or obese can increase stress your bearing joints. Maintaining ideal BMI helps to prevent joint injury.
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- Rheumatoid arthritis, testing. https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/conditions/rheumatoid/start/1 . Accessed on 26-10-2017
- Laboratory testing. https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/diagnosis/laboratory-testing/ . Accessed on 26-10-2017
- Blood tests for rheumatoid arthritis. https://www.healthline.com/health/blood-tests-rheumatoid-arthritis#overview1 . Accessed on 26-10-2017
- Diagnosis and treatment. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353653 . Accessed on 26-10-2017