Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disorder that affects the joints and either produces swelling or cartilage degeneration. While the cause is yet to be determined, research shows that it is directly related to age and most frequently occurs between the ages 40–50. This is why most people are likely to see the onset of this arthritis as the aches and pains of growing old, and tend to ignore it during its initial and most treatable phase.
Research has shown that this disease is more likely to effect women than men and also a large number of people who have had sports related injuries that have been ignored or improperly treated. It is also believed to be an immunological disease, which is more likely to occur in people with overactive immune systems. And while the wrists and the knees are affected in majority of the cases, back and shoulder problems are also becoming increasingly common.
X-rays and blood tests are the most commonly used techniques to diagnose arthritis, but both tend to show results that are negative initially. It is only one to two years after the advance of the arthritis that significant erosion of the cartilage and the bone becomes evident, and most blood tests take longer to confirm the same.
There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, though there are ways to alleviate the ongoing pain and discomfort along with preventing further degeneration. Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs are frequently used to prevent further erosion and to also induce some amount of remission. This becomes especially important because in most cases bone and tissue disintegration is often irreversible. Anti-inflammatory agents and analgesics have also been found to be effective for reducing the pain, though they do nothing to repair the existing damage. Losing weight is also another important remedy, though it works better as a preventive measure even if you begin your attempts well into your twenties or thirties.
Reducing the amount of saturated and animal fats in one’s diet has shown positive results according to some studies, while others advocate either strict vegetarianism or a diet rich in white meat. Our bones and tissue also have a way of repairing the damage done by arthritis, though the momentum of these will be severely reduced. But the right amount of vitamins and nutrients can help bring about some change. Lastly exercise and physical activity are guaranteed to improve the physical and the mental well being of a person suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, but care and attention should be paid not to overwork the already sensitive joints.
Along with the slowing down of movement, arthritis has also been known to lead to depression and an end to one’s sex life. Because it is so closely linked to growing old, people suffering from disease are more likely to develop feelings of self-pity and helplessness, assuming automatically the persona of an elderly person irrespective of their actual age. And while it does not cause death, there are high chances of other conditions like heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol developing because of the physiological changes and the reduced activity that the person now adopts.
Since the cause of the disease is yet to be determined there are limited ways to prevent its onset and none of these can be empirically verified. But doctors do advise moderation in one’s diet, exercise, and reduced stress levels that together help to improve the quality of one’s life and thus make the body less susceptible to the disease, even if one possesses the genetic predisposition.