What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic (long-term) inflammatory disease affecting the joints. It differs from osteoarthritis in which the joints are damaged without an inflammatory process. Rheumatoid arthritis affects women 3 times more than men. It varies greatly in its form and severity from person to person.  

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

In some people the symptoms start quite slowly, but in a few people the disease develops rapidly. Initially, there is pain and swelling in a few joints,usually in the feet and hands. The affected joints will feel stiff on waking and may feel warm to the touch. If the disease develops rapidly, there may be pain and swelling in many joints and severe morning stiffness, which will cause problems in everyday movements.Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in which the tissues of the joints, including cartilage, and bone are affected. This inflammation causes progressive damage to the joints. Once damaged, the joints are unable to heal properly. Occasionally, other parts of the body may be affected by rheumatoid arthritis, including the eyes, heart,lungs, skin, blood vessels and blood cells.It is important that rheumatoid arthritis is recognized early so that treatment can be started as soon as possible. 

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of disease known as an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks part of the body, in this case the joints.People with a family member affected by rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than those without. Smokers are also more likely than non-smokers to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

What tests confirm a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis?

A number of blood tests may be used to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis,although there is no single test that will give a definitive diagnosis. Tests for ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) or CRP (C-reactive protein) may show higher levels when inflammation is present. Around 80% of people with rheumatoid arthritis are anemic, a condition that can be detected with a simple blood test.In addition, around 60% to 70% of people with rheumatoid arthritis will test positively for a protein called the “rheumatoid factor.” X-rays of the hands and feet may be helpful in diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis if these joints are affected. 

How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?  

The main treatment is drug therapy, which should be started as early as possible to avoid damage to joints. There are five main types of drugs used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: analgesics (painkillers); non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); corticosteroids (steroids); disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics. 

Self-help measures

Try to keep your body weight at a healthy level to avoid putting additional stress on joints.

Try to exercise your joints and muscles as much as possible without doing harm. Joints need to be kept moving so that they do not seize up. Avoid violent Walking and swimming are good forms of exercise.

Ease the strain on joints in everyday,repetitive tasks by using alternative methods. This may involve aids and adaptations at home and in the workplace 


This article is intended for patient education only. 

You are advised to consult your doctor before following the same.