Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Chronic Connective Tissue Disease

Rheumatoid-Arthritis - Connective Tissue Disease

Facts about Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a type of connective tissue disease that causes chronic joint inflammation. This disease is a form of autoimmune diseases that occurs when your body’s own tissues attack their own immune system. Our immune system is comprised of complex arrangement of antibodies and cells that are designed casually to ‘seek and destroy’ any abnormal cell activity in the body.

Patients with connective tissue disease have some parts of their body affected. These parts connect the structures of the parts of body as connective tissues are consisted of two collagen, elastin and proteins. Among these collagen is form of protein that is found mostly in bone, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. Elastin is an elastic protein that is similar to a rubber band and is one of the major elements of skin and ligaments.

The Elastin and Collagen get inflamed when a person gets connective tissue disease while the parts of the body affect badly.

A chronic Condition with severe complications

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic condition which means it can take years to be treated properly. A person with RA may remain asymptomatic for longer periods of time.  However, rheumatoid Arthritis is commonly experienced as a progressive illness that can potentially cause remarkable functional disability and joint destruction over time.

Being one of the most common connective tissue diseases, RA is inherited. Immune cells attack and inflame the joints. This connective tissue disease can also affect lungs, eyes and heart. Women are more prone to diagnose with connective tissue disease or condition as compared to men as 70% of RA patients are women. The joint inflammation of RA causes significant swelling, redness, pain and stiffness in and around joints.

Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis as a Connective Tissue Disease

People with connective tissue disease such as Rheumatoid Arthritis may not feel any symptoms for a longer period of time, however, when they feel, some of the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are;

  • Joint pain in the hands, feet and knees
  • Tender joints
  • Swollen joints
  • Loss of joint functionality
  • Stiff joints
  • Fatigue
  • Rheumatoid nodules
  • Warmth in joints
  • Deformity of joints
  • Polyarthritis
  • Loss of joint range of motion
  • Limping

Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis as a Connective Tissue Disease

There is no single test or assessment available to diagnose RA. The diagnosis is mostly based on the clinical staging. Eventually, rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed on the basis of a combination of presentation of the involved joints, characteristic of swelling of joints and joint stiffness in the morning, the presence of blood factors of RA,  citrulline antibody  as well as findings of rheumatoid nodules.

Certain blood tests and X-ray are obtained from patients. The final diagnosis is based on the pattern of symptoms, the division of joint inflammation and the findings of blood and X-ray findings. A patient has to visit his/her doctors for several times for a proper diagnosis.

Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis as a Connective Tissue Disease

There is no well known cure or treatment for RA to date and the main goal of the treatment of RA is to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling of affected joints, maximize joint functionality and prevent deformity and destruction of joints. Early diagnosis and treatment has been shown to be significant in improving results.

Aggressive disease control and management could improve functionality, stop the process of joint damage as monitored on tests and X-rays and prevent job disability. Some of the Optimal RA treatment includes a combination of rest, exercise, joint strengthening, joint protection and patient education.

Treatment can be changed based on the diagnosis and severity of the condition, types of involved joints, general age and health and patient’s profession or occupation. Some of the most effective medicines used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are aspirin, cortisone, methotrexate, and hydroxychloroquine.

All these medicines promote remission of disease and prevent destruction of joints. Generally the functionality is improved and joint destruction and disability is improved when the illness if treated with second-line medicines particularly with early diagnosis.

Diet, Exercise, and Home Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis

As a connective tissue disease, RA affects mostly women who are at significant risk of RA in the later stages of life. It is common that some “night-shade” foods like tomatoes could significantly aggravate RA but this claim lacks the supportive evidence.

However there are some home remedies that can prove to be effective. Some of these foods are salmons, fish oils, and omega-3 fatty acids supplements which have shown promise in some short term research studies in the domain of bone and joint diseases. Moreover, the anti-inflammatory properties of cur cumin which is an active ingredient in dietary turmeric may be quite beneficial for reducing symptoms and complications of RA.

Some supplements like calcium and vitamin D are also used to prevent risk of osteoporosis in patients with RA.  Folic Acid has also shown some promise in preventing drug related side effects of rheumatoid Arthritis. Moderate exercise must be included in daily routine however patients with RA should avoid harsh exercises that could potentially impact joints and aggravate pain and stiffness.



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