Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease (disorder in which the body’s tissues are attached by its own immune system), that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause inflammation of the tissues around the joints, as well as in other organs in the body.

The disease can begin at any age, but it most often starts after 40 years of age.

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis:

The rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can come and go, depending on the degree if tissue inflammation. Remissions can occur spontaneously or with treatment and can last weeks, months or years. When the disease becomes active again, symptoms return.

Chronic inflammation can cause damage to the body tissues, including cartilages and bones, and resultig in joint destruction, deformity, and loss of function.

The joints of the hand and foot are often the very first joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis

The most common primary symptoms are:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness – morning stiffness (especially the small joints of the hand or/and foot)
  • Joint swelling – swelling around the joint, making it warm
  • Range of motion becomes smaller
  • Rheumatoid nodules – are painless lumps that appear beneath the skin. They most often occur on the elbow, but they can also occur on other points including the base of the spine, the back of the head, the Achilles tendon, and tendons of the hand.

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation of the cervical spine. Inflammation of cervical spine can cause a painful and stiff neck.

Rheumatoid arthritis may produce a variety of other symptoms, depending on wich tissues are inflamed.

Diagnosis for rheumatoid arthritis:

Early diagnosis and early special treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can help prevent joint deformity.

A diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is made after a full medical and family history and physical and diagnosting testing. The medical testing is made by qualified health professinals.

Laboratory tests (blood tests), and X-rays/ MRI are ordered to help with the diagnostic process, and to check the effectivness of treatment.

Blood tests:

  • Rheumatoid factor – in about 75-80% of cases of rheumatoid arthritis , blood tests reveal rheuma factor
  • Erythrocyte Sedimentation rate Test (ESR) – the higher the ESR rate the greater the inflammation. The test is used to help determine how active the condition is.
  • C-Reactive Protein ( CRP) – high level of CRP are also indicators of active inflammation.
  • Anti_CCP Antibody Test (CCP)
  • Test for Anemia – Anemia is a common complication

Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis aims to :

  • Decrease inflammation
  • Relive pain
  • Slow down or stop joint damage
  • Maintain function
  • Improve overall healt and physical shape

Optimal care involves a team approach among the patient, physicans and physical therapists

Physical therapy for rheumatoid arthritis

Physical therapy is a very important treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, that helps prevent joint degeneration, and deformation.

The evaluation for each patient includes an examination of affected joint flexibility, body alignment, join deformity, muscle strength, mobility and ability to perform activities.

Physical therapists educate patients how to exercise safely, protect joints, improve flexibility, mobility and strength and coordinate goal-oriented home programs.

Physical therapy exercise may result in:

  1. stabilitation of joint
  2. increase in range of motion
  3. reduction of atrophy (muscles)
  4. development of muscular enhancement
  5. reduction of spasm of muscles
  6. reduction of destruction, deformity
  7. posture correction