Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the joints become inflamed due to the immune system (which usually works against infections and toxins to protect us) „attacking” the body’s own joints.
The cause of this disease is unknown, but it is believed that there are factors that influence the immune system to work incorrectly, such as genetic predisposition, certain infections, stress, and even environmental factors (pollution, smoking). The immune system produces substances that cause chronic inflammation in the joints, tendons, and sometimes in internal organs, blood vessels, or nerves. The lining of the joint (synovium) thickens, produces more fluid, and the joint increases in size. It is painful, swollen, and warm. If this inflammation persists, it can lead to the destruction of the joint (cartilage and even bone).
Women are more likely to be affected than men. Sometimes the disease appears suddenly after childbirth or after the onset of menopause.
The disease can occur suddenly or slowly with symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and lack of energy. The joints become painful, swollen, and difficult to move, and there is a sensation of stiffness in the body. There may be tingling in the fingers and toes. These symptoms are usually more pronounced in the morning than in the evening.
The diagnosis is made by a rheumatologist. It is important to listen to the patient’s history and complaints, perform a physical examination, and conduct laboratory tests (both general and specific for rheumatoid arthritis) as well as X-rays or ultrasound of the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that, in most cases, lasts a lifetime. Its course can vary. Sometimes it progresses very slowly and the patient feels well. There are forms of the disease with periods of exacerbation and periods of remission. Less commonly, there are severe forms that are difficult to control.
The most important advantage of modern medicine is that we can control these diseases with proper treatment! We can slow down the progression, reduce pain, and minimize the risk of joint destruction!