Community Magazine

Rheumatoid Arthritis – Different Kinds of Arthritis

By Steve Bradley

Of the 10 million people in the Uk with arthritis, 400,000 suffer from a condition known as Rheumatoid arthritis.

Children, adults, and elderly people all suffer from the condition, which causes inflammation and pain in joints.

There are dozens of different types of arthritis, each with their own particular symptoms and causes, but the most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

This article will examine the symptoms, causes, and possible ways that Rheumatoid arthritis can be treated.

Rheumatoid arthritis- what are the symptoms?

Rheumatoid arthritis is the second most common kind of arthritis in the UK. Its main symptoms are joint pain, swelling, and joint stiffness, usually developing across the course of a few weeks.

They are also more long-lasting than is usual of osteoarthritis; where osteoarthritis may cause stiffness for around half an hour after getting up in the morning, the stiffness from rheumatoid arthritis will typically stay for a lot longer. Rheumatoid arthritis also causes various other more general symptoms as well, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Tiredness, or a more general lack of energy

Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause the eyes to dry out if it is present in the eyes, or can cause various chest problems should it affect the lungs or heart.

The condition can also impact on the patient’s mental health. 
It can be hard to deal with the unpredictable nature of arthritis. 

The level of pain and stiffness can differ each day, and there is no way of predicting when a flare-up will occur. 

This unpredictability can result in depression or feelings of stress and anxiety. Carers are encouraged to look for early signs. Attending courses on mental health awareness or stress awareness is advised to help identify changes in their patient’s behavior.

Rheumatoid Arthritis- what are its causes?

While it is not known what triggers the development of rheumatoid arthritis, we do know that it is an autoimmune condition (a type of disease where the body’s immune system wrongly identifies a part of the body as being a foreign object and attempts to destroy it).

The antibodies attack the lining of joints, causing a cell layer to release chemicals which damage bones, tendons, cartilage, or ligaments. This results in the symptoms outlined above.

As mentioned, the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, but several risk factors have been identified as contributors.

People who smoke seem to be at a higher risk of developing the condition. Women are also several times more likely than men to develop the condition, which suggest a possible link between estrogen levels and the condition.

There is also a genetic factor, as there is a small amount of evidence to suggest that it can run in families, although whatever role genes play is considered minimal by most professionals.

Rheumatoid Arthritis- are there any treatments?

Like osteoarthritis, there is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment usually revolves around managing the symptoms and enabling as active a life as possible. That said, making lifestyle changes and getting early treatment can limit the extent of the condition.

This treatment comes in the form of two kinds of medication, known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs, for short) and biological treatments.

DMARDs work by blocking the effects of the chemicals which are released when attacked by the immune system, and once an effective variety is discovered you will have to take it long-term.

Biological treatments are given in addition to DMARDs (normally when the DMARD alone hasn’t been fully effective) and are injections which stop certain chemicals in the blood from activating the immune system.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Related training

At online care courses, our training is designed to help those working in the health and social care sectors unlock their potential in the delivery of patient care. Whether refresher courses are required to revisit existing skillsets or specialist learning is required, we can help.
Training relating to Arthritis can be found in our elderly care training section which covers patient handling (teaching candidates the principles of mobility when dealing with the elderly) and working with disabilities.

For those just starting out in the care profession, we also have courses on preparing to work in care, carers awareness, duty of care and care planning.

Further Reading

The NHS website has lots of information about arthritis, including many of the less common types not discussed in this article:

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