What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Watch our video about what rheumatoid arthritis is
To understand how rheumatoid arthritis develops, it helps to understand how a normal joint works.
How does a normal joint work?
For example, the knee is the largest joint in the body and one of the most complicated. It must be strong enough to take our weight and must lock into position, so we can stand upright.
It also has to act as a hinge, so we can walk, and needs to twist and turn when we run or play sports.
The joint is held in place by the synovium, which contains thick fluid to protect the bones and joint.
The synovium has a tough outer layer that holds the joint in place and stops the bones moving too far.
Strong cords called tendons anchor the muscles to the bones.
What happens in a joint affected by rheumatoid arthritis?
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system can cause inflammation inside a joint or a number of joints. Inflammation is normally an important part of how your immune system works. It allows the body to send extra fluid and blood to a part of the body under attack from an infection. For example, if you have a cut that gets infected, the skin around it can become swollen and a different colour.
When the inflammation goes down, the capsule around the synovium remains stretched and can’t hold the joint in its proper position. This can cause the joint to become unstable and move into unusual positions.
The main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:
- tiredness and lack of energy – this can be known as fatigue
- a poor appetite (not feeling hungry)
- a high temperature, or a fever
- dry eyes – as a result of inflammation
- chest pain – as a result of inflammation.
A few people develop fleshy lumps called rheumatoid nodules, which form under the skin around affected joints. They can sometimes be painful, but usually are not.
类风湿性关节炎发展由于combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as smoking and diet. It is unclear what the genetic link is, but it is thought that having a relative with the condition increases your chance of developing the condition.
- 低于18.5 - 您处于体重不足范围
- between 18.5 and 24.9 – you're in the healthy weight range
- between 25 and 29.9 – you're in the overweight range
- between 30 and 39.9 – you're in the obese range.
Cigarette smoking significantly increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. If you would like to stop smoking, visit theSmokefree website.
有证据表明，如果您吃了很多红肉，并且不会食用太多维生素C, you may have an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
How will rheumatoid arthritis affect me?
If you smoke, it’s a very good idea to quit after a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. This is because:
- smoking can weaken how well your medication works.
Blood tests and x-rays will help your doctor assess how fast your arthritis is developing and what the outlook for the future may be. This will also help your doctor to decide which form of treatment to recommend.
The outlook for people with rheumatoid arthritis is improving all the time, as new and more effective treatments become available. It is possible to lead a full and active life with the condition, but it is important to take your medication as prescribed and make necessary lifestyle changes.
A diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is based on your symptoms, a physical examination and the results of x-rays, scans and blood tests.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
This test can show if there is inflammation in your body. It does this by checking how much CRP there is in your blood. If there is more CRP than usual, you may have inflammation in your body.
Full blood count
There is another antibody test called anti-CCP that you can take. People who test positive for anti-CCP are very likely to get rheumatoid arthritis. However, not everyone that has the condition has this antibody.
These may include:
- x-rays – these will show any changes in your joints
- ultrasound scans – a picture of your joints is created using high-frequency sound waves
- 磁共振成像（MRI）扫描 - 关节的图片是使用强磁场和无线电波制成的。
有各种各样的治疗方法对rh可用eumatoid arthritis. The earlier that intensive treatment is started, the more likely it is to work.
- physical therapies
毒品may be available under several different names. Each drug has an approved name – sometimes called a generic name.
Manufacturers often give their own brand or trade name to the drug as well. For example, Nurofen is a brand name for ibuprofen.
The approved name should always be on the pharmacist’s label, even if a brand name appears on the packaging. Check with your doctor,rheumatology nurse specialist或药剂师，如果您不确定。
止痛药can help to relieve the pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, but should not be the only treatment used.
可用的止痛药有很多类型和优势 - 有些可以从药房从柜台上购买，而有些则只有处方可用。
Managing a flare-up
When your symptoms get worse, this is known as a flare-up. These can happen at any time, but can happen after you have been stressed or had an infection.
If you’re having regular flare-ups, you should mention this to your doctor. It may be that you need to review your treatment.
Here are a few things you can do to help yourself during a flare-up:
- Keep taking your medication at the doses you’ve been prescribed.
- Put heated items on the joint – these can include a hot water bottle or electric heat pad. See below for more information.
- 将冷物品放在关节上 - 其中可以包括一碗带有冰块的冷水，一包毛巾中包裹的冷冻豌豆或保存在冰箱中的潮湿毛巾。请参阅下面的详细信息。
- Let people around you know, so they can help and support you.
Heated items that could help your joint pain include a hot water bottle or electric heat pad. Wrap these in a towel, then place on a painful joint. You could also try having a hot or warm shower or bath.
Other heated items that people have found useful are wheat bag, heat pads, deep heat cream, or a heat lamp.
Make sure these items are warm but not hot, as you could risk burning or scalding yourself. Gentle heat will be enough.
Tips for using ice packs
Here’s how to apply the ice to your skin:
- Rub a small amount of oil over where you’d like the ice pack to go. Any type of oil can be used. If your skin is broken – for example, if you have a cut – don’t use the oil and cover the area with a plastic bag. This will stop the cut getting wet.
- Put a cold, wet flannel over the oil.
Living with rheumatoid arthritis
职业理疗师can help you keep doing the activities you need or want to do – at home or at work. They will work with you to find different ways of doing things.
The benefits of seeing an occupational therapist include:
- being able to do more things, at home or at work
- being able to live independently at home
你有准备描述任何困难and how they are affecting your life, or the lives of those who care for you.
You can also see an occupational therapist privately. You will be able to get an appointment quicker, but it will cost you money.
Here, we round up some of the latest developments in rheumatoid arthritis research.
Our previous research has:
- led to the development of a new type of drug. These drugs are called ‘biological therapies’ and have transformed the lives of people with rheumatoid arthritis over the past 20 years.
We're currently funding research projects to find out what causes rheumatoid arthritis, and to develop new and improved treatments. For example:
- our rheumatoid arthritis pathogenesis centre of excellence is looking at why rheumatoid arthritis starts, why it attacks the joints, and why the inflammation carries on rather than switching off
I was in my third year of university, studying to be a primary school teacher. Suddenly, one morning, my thumbs became very painful. Then my elbows became stiff and sore, and I couldn’t straighten my arms.
At first I only had symptoms in the morning, but eventually I had them all the time. Quite a few of my joints were stiff and painful, which meant I couldn’t get around very well. I was also tired a lot. When this happened, my GP referred me to a rheumatologist.
I graduated from my teacher training course two years later than planned, but have not been able to work as a teacher yet, due to my arthritis. However, I have used my teaching skills to volunteer for Versus Arthritis, leading self-management courses in Northern Ireland, which I find extremely enjoyable and rewarding. I am also the Chairperson of my local Versus Arthritis support group.
Baking is one of my hobbies, although using certain kitchen equipment can be difficult. Being social is important to me too and I enjoy going to cafés to catch up with my friends. When I’m in pain, I can distract myself by reading or listening to music.
Exercise is important to me too, as I find that doing some gentle exercises makes my joints less painful. There are a few chair-based exercises I do regularly and I also enjoy going for short walks.
Medication-wise, I’m currently using a biological injection called Enbrel. I’ve been using it for five years and inject myself once a week. It’s really helped to control my condition and my flare-ups happen less often.
My advice to anyone who has recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis would be to join a support group. Talking to another person who has the same condition as you and knows what you’re going through is really useful and reassuring. It’s helped me a lot in my journey.
I’d also say that getting a good night’s sleep is important, as it can help your body recover from the effects of your arthritis. It’s also important for me to learn more about my condition, as it helps me to understand what my body is going through. I really do believe that knowledge is power!