Yourwellness – The Gateway to living well
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects your wellness by systemically targeting your immune system. At any age, the disease affects the wellbeing of multiple joints in your upper and lower limbs, but knees are one of the common joints affected by RA.
So what happens exactly? In your knee, RA affects the synovium that lines the ends of the bones in the joints, causing it to thicken and produce an excess of joint fluid. The disease also encourages your immune system to release inflammatory chemicals, and so, in combination with the excess synovium fluid, this leads to swelling and damage to the cartilage which otherwise acts as a cushion within the joint. With a damaged and swollen cartilage, you can experience pain and erosion in the joint.
Usually, the symptoms of RA include pain and stiffness in the joints that have been affected, particularly in the mornings. You might find that, at this time, your knee becomes stiff and swollen, making it difficult to bend or straighten. These symptoms can also occur severely after a period of inactivity, and your knee may feel weak. Otherwise, your knee could feel “locked” or may “buckle” as a result of this disease.
To diagnose RA, your doctor will need a detailed history of the onset and severity of the symptoms, as well as family history of rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disorders. He or she will then provide a physical examination of your joints, looking signs of swelling, pain and inflammation. Your doctor will also note the tenderness, stiffness and range of movement of your knees, and possibly ask you to complete a questionnaire to assess your own perception of the disease burden, and how it impacts your quality of life.
When it comes to treatment, it has two purposes; to relieve the symptoms of RA and to prevent the disease progression and joint damage. The primary mode of therapy is using pain relievers and anti-inflammatory agents to relieve the symptoms. To widely control the symptoms of RA, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are most-widely used, but they can only be used on a short-term basis as NSAIDs are notorious for their side effects. There are also other kinds of drugs, as well as supportive treatment, lifestyle modifications, physiotherapy, and even surgery, to relieve or prevent joint pain, and your doctor can help you find what works best for you.