Since 1996 every October 12 is commemorated World Rheumatoid Arthritis Day, institutionalized by Arthritis Rheumatism International. The objective is to sensitize the community about the condition and provide support to both patients and their families.
According to the WHO, rheumatoid arthritis affects between 1 and 1.5 percent of the world’s population. In Latin America, figures from the Pan American Health Organization indicate that there are 34 million people with permanent disabilities and 140 million with temporary disabilities due to rheumatic diseases. Arthritis is one of the leading causes of absenteeism and premature retirement in the world, according to an article on the Government of Mexico website.
First, what is rheumatoid arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammatory disease of autoimmune cause, this means that the tissues are destroyed by their own antibodies. We are talking about a chronic condition, which has no cure.
Arthritis affects both small and medium joints, these include: knees, ankles, hands, elbows, shoulders, and wrists. Organs outside the joints can also be affected, such as: heart, eyes, nervous system, lungs, musculoskeletal system, skin and blood.
Most rheumatic diseases are of unknown origin, because, although cases that run within the same family may occur, these conditions are not necessarily hereditary.
Symptoms of arthritis
There are more than 100 types of arthritis, the most common are: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (the latter two are part of the spondyloarthritis family). These diseases usually cause damage to joint structures such as tendons, bones, ligaments and cartilage, causing joint pain and stiffness in the mornings. Arthritis progressively affects mobility, causing fatigue and weakness that eventually lead to disability.
As we have mentioned previously, the cause of this type of disease is unknown, however, it is clear that in most cases the immune system plays a fundamental role. The immune system (or defense system) is responsible for defending ourselves against foreign organisms, parasites and viruses that enter our body. In people with rheumatism or arthritis, the immune system ‘mistakes’ normal cells as foreign, destroying them and causing disease.
It is essential to diagnose the disease early. This can be accomplished by clinical, laboratory, x-ray, and ultrasound examination. If the diagnosis is made at least in the first 6 months after having noticed the symptoms, the damage can most probably be avoided up to 80 percent.
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There are ways to reduce the risk of some types of arthritis, including reducing disability if you have the disease. Some tips include:
● Avoid excess weight gain during early adulthood.
● Try to prevent joint injuries. Do not perform repetitive movements that damage or cause joint injuries.
● Maintain an adequate weight. In the case of a person with excess weight, following a healthy diet and doing a little exercise will help reduce the risk of contracting osteoarthritis in the knees.
● Strengthen the muscles that surround the joints.
● Avoid smoking and consuming alcohol in excess, in this way you will avoid contracting osteoporosis.
● Consult a specialist constantly to know the care in case of suffering from a disease in the joints, as well as to know the best ways to prevent them depending on the patient.
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis
Treatments for arthritis include: 1. non-drug management: resting the joints for 8 to 10 hours at night and half an hour at noon, doing regular exercises to maintain their strength and mobility, and 2. Pharmacological management: treatment for pain and inflammation that reduces discomfort and, most importantly, disease-modifying treatments that are drugs that slow the progression of arthritis.
Commemorate World Arthritis Day!
Let us be part of the community that commemorates world arthritis day, promoting the check-up to rule out suffering from any type of joint disease and informing ourselves about the disease.
We can try to prevent this disease or reduce its risks or, when we perceive any of the symptoms, consult a specialist.
We appreciate the collaboration of Dr. Alejandro Garza Alpirez, rheumatologist, for validating and sharing information for this article.
With Information from DoctorAnytime