Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks healthy joint tissue instead of targeting foreign bodily cells. This autoimmune disease causes joints to become inflamed and painful, leading to damage to the affected body areas and possibly other body parts and systems, too. More than 6 million adults in Canada suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with age of onset occurring on average between 30 and 50 years of age.
Signs and Symptoms of RA
Some people will display clear physical signs of joint damage and impairment, while others show less obvious symptoms that can mimic other medical conditions. Health professionals often have a hard time diagnosing RA. Prescription for treatment in the disease’s early stages can be clouded when other diagnoses also fit the symptoms.
Some of the general and more commonplace symptoms of this autoimmune disease include:
- Joint stiffness and pain
- Swelling of joints
- Redness and warmth around joints
- Reduced mobility
- Deformed joints
Tenderness and pain in the joints happen while RA is in an active state, with inflammation causing the discomfort. RA is most often felt in the smaller joints, such as the knuckles of fingers, the toes, wrists, and ankles. The range of motion in your joints is affected, causing stiffness. This loss of flexibility can progress to the point of a significant loss of range of motion ability unless treatment is sought early.
Joints can also become reddened and feel warm due to the swelling and inflammation. Sufferers of RA tend to feel joint stiff most often upon awakening, after lying still all night. Stiffness also is evident when your immune system is actively attacking healthy tissue.
When To Seek Help
If you have been feeling pain and tenderness in your joints for a period of six or more consecutive weeks, you should seek help from your physician. Ongoing joint discomfort and sensitivity is one the earliest symptoms of RA. Another sign is joint stiffness upon waking that doesn’t feel better after being up and about for 30 minutes or longer. Feeling pain or sore in more than one joint or in your smaller joints are also signs of RA, including discomfort in similar joints on both sides of your body.
Treatments For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Pharmacological treatments prescribed to relieve symptoms of RA will depend upon the magnitude of your discomfort and the timing of your initial diagnosis. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve pain and calm inflammation. Corticosteroids also help with pain and swelling, plus they help slow joint damage, but side effects associated with steroid treatment can include bone loss, weight gain, and diabetes. Disease-modifying anti rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can assist in slowing the progression of RA and avoid permanent joint damage. The side effects associated with DMARDs, however, can lead to liver destruction, bone marrow suppression and life-threatening lung infections.
Alternative treatments for RA that use cells from your own body are available at the Spine Institute Northwest. Regenerative medicine therapies work to induce healing and revitalize healthy tissue. State-of-the-art treatments in the field of regenerative medicine for RA sufferers feature stem cells, particularly for patients who are not responding well to or wish to avoid excessive pharmacological therapies. Amnion, umbilical cord blood, and exosomes are used in treatments with cells from a donor. These generally serve as anti-inflammatory therapy for both intra-articular joint injections and IV therapy.
Stem cells harvested from a patient’s own body can aid in the repair and regeneration of unhealthy tissue that is associated with joint disease. These stem cell treatments are given via injection over a period of time to ensure the most favorable anti-inflammatory results. As the stem cells perform the job of rebalancing your body’s immune system, the treatment also boosts certain types of cell production that regulate against assaults from your own immune system. After a period of a few weeks, you can anticipate a gradual improvement in joint pain and stiffness after treatment with stem cells.
Call us at the Spine Institute Northwest to discover whether stem cell therapy is an option for relief of your RA symptoms.