By Dr Sajjan Shenoy
October 12, 2021 (IANSlife) Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory auto-immune disease that involves predominantly joints but also other systems of the body. Affected patients develop severe joint pains with swelling involving the finger joints, wrists, shoulders, knees and feet with significant night pain and early morning increase in pain and stiffness of the joints.
If not appropriately diagnosed and treated on time, it is a disabling and debilitating disease with the majority of the patients ending up with damaged and deformed joints. They find it difficult to carry out even the basic activities of daily living. The disease also affects the cardiovascular system leading to an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. In fact, such events remain the most common cause of mortality in such patients. RA is an autoimmune disease – one in which there is an immune system response and attack to one’s own tissues.
RA also occurs more often in women (8 out of 10 patients with RA are women). The exact cause for this process is unknown but current theories of disease origins point towards the presence of genetic predisposing factors (which by themselves are not sufficient to produce the disease) which interact with environmental factors – possibly infections, diet, hormonal changes and lifestyle-related factors. No single theory has been proven to be accurate but accumulating scientific data over the years have been supportive.
In view of the lack of definitive knowledge on the development of RA, preventive measures are often empirical and not of proven benefit. However, it is certain that some lifestyle-related factors significantly increase the risk of the development of RA. It may be worthwhile to put in a conscious effort to improve them and avoid the development of such disorders and also to improve disease control if one has been unfortunate enough to have developed the disease already.
(Dr Sajjan Shenoy is MD; DM Consultant Rheumatologist and Immunologist at KMC Hospital, Mangaluru.)
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