What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

As the first post, I guess I should explain briefly what Rheumatoid Arthritis is (as I understand it. I’m not a doctor).

Rheumatoid Arthritis is weird. From talking with the doctors we’ve visited and through reading, the cause is unknown although there are many theories.

The causes of RA and even some of the workings of the condition are debated by medical professionals and researchers.

It’s called an auto-immune disease and it’s very tough.

If you want a more technical description, here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks synovial joints. The process produces an inflammatory response of the synovium (synovitis) secondary to hyperplasia of synovial cells, excess synovial fluid, and the development of pannus in the synovium. The pathology of the disease process often leads to the destruction of articular cartilage and ankylosis of the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis can also produce diffuse inflammation in the lungs, pericardium, pleura, and sclera, and also nodular lesions, most common in subcutaneous tissue under the skin. Although the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, autoimmunity plays a pivotal role in both its chronicity and progression.

About 1% of the world’s population is afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis, women three times more often than men. Onset is most frequent between the ages of 40 and 50, but people of any age can be affected. It can be a disabling and painful condition, which can lead to substantial loss of functioning and mobility. It is diagnosed chiefly on symptoms and signs, but also with blood tests (especially a test called rheumatoid factor) and X-rays. Diagnosis and long-term management are typically performed by a rheumatologist, an expert in the diseases of joints and connective tissues.

Various treatments are available. Non-pharmacological treatment includes physical therapy, orthoses, occupational therapy and nutritional therapy. Analgesia (painkillers) and anti-inflammatory drugs, including steroids, are used to suppress the symptoms, while disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are often required to inhibit or halt the underlying immune process and prevent long-term damage. In recent times, the newer group of biologics has increased treatment options.

The name is based on the term “rheumatic fever”, an illness which includes joint pain and is derived from the Greek word ῥεύμα-rheuma (nom.), ῥεύματος-rheumatos (gen.) (“flow, current”). The suffix -oid (“resembling”) gives the translation as joint inflammation that resembles rheumatic fever. The first recognized description of rheumatoid arthritis was made in 1800 by Dr Augustin Jacob Landré-Beauvais (1772–1840) of Paris.

Source: Rheumatoid arthritis. (2010, August 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:48, August 14, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rheumatoid_arthritis&oldid=378213823

Rheumatoid arthritis joint

Rheumatoid arthritis joint (Wikipedia)

My RA Story started a number of years ago, and we’ve had many ups and downs along the way.

We’ve read, and read, and read about Rheumatoid Arthritis. We’ve read the technical books, the “alternative” treatment books and lots of articles on the Internet.

As we’ve explored treatment options, more and more, we’re paying attention to people who have actually overcome RA rather than doctors who have never had it, don’t know what causes it, and have a crazy knack for prescribing pills and shots.

Pills and shots aren’t inherently bad, but when we ask, “What else can we do to help manage this?” and the doctors (we’ve visited two Rheumatologists) say, “Nothing other than don’t push your limits,” we started to get frustrated.

We’re glad for the initial role that doctors plaid in diagnosing, running tests, and helping us in the early stages, but as time wore on, and we looked ahead, we knew there was more we could do.

Some of the theories attribute the cause to a case of mistaken identity:

It has long been suspected that certain infections could be triggers for this disease.

The “mistaken identity” theory suggests that an infection triggers an immune response, leaving behind antibodies that should be specific to that organism.

The antibodies are not sufficiently specific, though, and set off an immune attack against part of the host.

Because the normal host molecule “looks like” a molecule on the offending organism that triggered the initial immune reaction—this phenomenon is called molecular mimicry.

Rheumatoid arthritis. (2011, April 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:47, April 21, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rheumatoid_arthritis&oldid=425222182

Others suggest that it is caused by an allergic reaction due to increased toxicity, increased permeability of the small intestine, and /or a bacterial or yeast overgrowth.

Whatever the cause, we’ve started to pay attention to people who have been healed from RA (fully or near completely) and many of their methods are similar.

It’s not an easy thing to experience. If you have it, I feel for you, and hope that my experience with RA and the things that I have learned and am learning benefit you in some way.