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Did you know there is more than one type of arthritis? In fact, there are more than 100 types of arthritis. The prognosis is different for each type.
The term “arthritis” has been used as an umbrella term to describe a wide variety of rheumatic diseases, including the most common type, Osteoarthritis. Most people at some point in their lives will experience Osteoarthritis. It is a result of barriers around the joint wearing away, usually due to age, injury, or excessive pressure placed on the joint (due to activity or weight), and is localized to the place of wear. Typically when a person says“arthritis” they are referring to this type.
Being lumped with “arthritis,” other immune system-related arthritis such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) does not get the attention it deserves.
Miss K 30-year-old IT professional recently diagnosed with RA told me, ‘’Soon after diagnosis, I realized that no one understood what Rheumatoid Arthritis was, most people only heard the word “arthritis” and would respond with “you are too young to have arthritis” or ‘’take ayurvedic treatment” or “diet and exercise will help’’.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious disease that is misunderstood by most people, including many professionals and medical personnel. RA is a type of autoimmune diseases. It causes damage not only to joints but also affects internal organs like the lungs and heart.
1. Constant or recurring pains in 1 or more joints pain
2. Stiffness on getting up after a period of inactivity or in the morning
3. Swelling in one or more joints
4. Joint pains affecting night sleep
5. Fatigue/difficulty in performing routine activities
6. The most common joints involved are the hands, wrists and feet.
7. The stiffness in the morning generally lasts longer than 45 minutes.
Since each type of arthritis is different, each type calls for a different approach to treatment. That means an accurate diagnosis is crucial for anyone who has arthritis. With the proper diagnosis, you’ll know what causes the pain. Then, you can be sure you’re taking the proper steps to relieve the pain and continue to be active.
As shown in the above pictures Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease. Joints may look normal in the early stages. With recent advances in treatment, it is possible to halt disease progression. The majority of patients with arthritis can lead a normal life if treated appropriately.
RA factor is a protein (antibody) that is measurable in the blood with a routine blood test. A positive RA factor test means that level of rheumatoid factor in patient’s blood is high. A positive RA factor test is mainly used as a supportive tool in making the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
Our immune system produces healthy proteins (antibodies) that fight off infections caused by bacteria and viruses. Sometimes, bad antibodies are produced by the immune system which can attack healthy tissue. RA factor is a bad antibody protein produced by patient’s immune system.
It is unknown what triggers our immune system to produce rheumatoid factor. It is thought to be a combination of genetics and other external risk factors.
RA factor test is used by doctors to help in diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. Approximately 70% of rheumatoid arthritis patients test positive for RA factor.
A negative RA factor test does not rule out the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, there is no single test to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. The diagnosis is made from a combination physical symptoms and medical history supported by various blood tests such as RA factor, anti-CCP antibodies and elevated inflammatory markers. Newer tests like anti-CCP antibodies are much more specific for rheumatoid arthritis.
Patients who test negative for RA factor but have signs and symptoms may still be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. This is seen in around 30% patients with rheumatoid arthritis (seronegative).
Rheumatoid arthritis affects different patients in different ways. Rheumatoid arthritis patients with a positive RA factor test have the potential for a more aggressive disease course. Keep in mind this isn’t always the case. If RA factor is tested and symptoms are detected early, a diagnosis can be quickly reached. Treatment should be started as soon as possible to joint damage.
The level of RA factor can fluctuate during the course of the disease but it does not correlate with disease activity and it does not normalise with treatment. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, it is not necessary to monitor the level RA factor. Inflammatory markers such as ESR and CRP are often elevated during active disease and can be good markers to monitor treatment response.
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To fight Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), you have to understand the condition inside and out. Try to learn everything you can about this disease. It makes a huge difference if your initial experience of care is positive. As they say, a good beginning is half the battle won! Similarly, a correct diagnosis is the most important step.
In addition, the following are highly recommended for people living with RA