Debilatating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Many people naturally assume that a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) automatically means a lifetime of disability, but not all or even most RA is now a debilitating illness. Modern treatment has changed the future of most people with RA to one that is hopeful and comfortable, but there are still some RA patients who will ultimately have devastating effects from the disease. Currently about 5% to 10% of RA patients will be disabled by this illness. RA still has the potential to be debilitating.
To understand how arthritis cripples the body and causes disability we need to understand what the disease is and what it does. RA is called an inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. While it can present suddenly and acutely, it is mostly a chronic disease that persists for a lifetime and must be managed since it cannot yet be cured.
RA is inflammatory because this is the response of the body to an immune reaction. Tissues become warm, red, swollen and usually painful. As the inflammation progresses, the structures of the joints are literally dissolved and cartilage and bone are eroded away. This can cause the joints to slightly dislocate and produces deformity. For example, in the hands the finger bones nearest the palm are often affected and the joints change shape with the fingers angling toward the little finger. Joints become stiff as well as misshapen and may remain enlarged. In the feet, the same thing can happen with the toes.
RA is called autoimmune because the immune system is mistakenly reacting to normal tissue as if it is foreign. White blood cells and immune system chemicals rush to the area affected, such as the joints, and this is what produces inflammation. Treating the disease depends on cooling off the immune response and in treating the inflammation with drugs. Once a joint is damaged, the damage however is permanent. Effective treatment can prevent deformity but not cure it.
Every joint in the body can be affected by RA and impaired function can be widespread. In addition, the disease attacks other organs and tissues such as the heart, lungs, stomach, skin and stomach causing more debilitation than just loss of mobility. Some damage may be severe enough to require surgical correction as well. Less severe damage may respond to physical therapy and exercise and regain some function even though the damage is still there.
Most patients will respond to some combination of medications, so the best strategy is early diagnosis and aggressive state of the art medical treatment. Many people also find relief and comfort is some herbal and other alternative forms of treatment. Various lab tests can help to determine how much inflammation is present in the body and assess how well the drug and therapy regimen is working.
While the risk of truly debilitating RA is small,
it is still real, so the need continues for new drugs to treat
resistant cases as well as searching for prevention methods and a
Advocate of Alternative medicine to recover from debilitating RA: stason.org/articles/
Effects of severe RA: www.healthguidance.org/.
Bristol-Myers Squibb site about treatment for debilitating RA: www.bms.com/
General information about RA as a cause of disability: www.joint-pain.com/