Rheumatoid Arthritis is a generalized disease, appearing more commonly in females, which principally affects the connective tissue of patients. Rheumatoid arthritis is a prevalent medical manifestation, involving many joints, specifically those of feet & hands, accompanied by the swelling of articular cartilages, which also corrode. The course of this condition is variable but often continuous & chronic leading to several deformities & disability. In some patients, it can also damage a vast range of body systems, including the eyes, skin, heart, lungs & blood vessels. While new kind of medications have dramatically enhanced treatment options, harsh rheumatoid arthritis can still cause physical disabilities. Self-management & self-care plays a proactive role in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis & for maintaining a good quality of life.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disorder that is chronic in characteristic. This type of arthritis is differentiated from osteoarthritis, which is caused due to the damage to the cartilage of joints, as rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of smaller joints in feet & hands. This damage to the lining of smaller joints results in swelling to painful levels & eventually causes erosion of these bones & even deformity of joints. Moreover, rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder &most commonly results from malfunctioning of the body’s immune system which causes it to adversely affect the body. This disorder can affect people if any age but is mainly seen after the age of 40 years & is known to be more prevalent in women.
The main cause of rheumatoid arthritis is when the body’s own immune system starts to attack the synovium (membranes lining joints) which results in the soft synovium to start getting harder & thicker. This thickening of synovium can cause cartilage & bone of the joint to eventually get deteriorated. This further causes ligaments & tendons of the joints to stretch & become weak & result in the joint getting misaligned. Primary factor for causing the immune system to respond towards the body in such a way is a genetic disorder which makes a person more susceptible towards developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Most commonly seen signs & symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are described as follows.
- Warm & tender inflamed joints
- Stiffness in the joints after waking from sleep
- Hard bumps can be felt under the skin on arms called ‘rheumatoid nodules’
- Weight loss
Earliest stages of rheumatoid arthritis affect the smaller joints such as the knuckles & toe joints in patients. As the disorder progresses, these symptoms are seen spreading to larger joints in the body such as shoulder joints, hip joints, elbow joints, ankle joints, knee joints & the wrist joints. These symptoms are mostly seen to switch between severe pain & complete lack of symptoms at times in between. As the disorder develops, joint deformity becomes more noticeable.
Beginning stages of rheumatoid arthritis do not show any symptoms that are exclusive to it. When orthopedic surgeons observe visible signs of inflammation & redness in patient’s joints, they may advise patients to undergo further diagnostic tests. Some of the important diagnostic tests are enumerated below.
- Blood Test – Patients affected with rheumatoid arthritis show an increase in the ‘Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate’ (also known as ESR or sed rate) which point towards swelling process in the joints of patient’s body. Another essential factor which can be determined by blood tests is anti-cyclic citrullinate d-peptide (or anti-CCP) antibodies.
- X-Rays – An x-ray examination can help determine the extent of swelling & progress of rheumatoid arthritis in patient’s joints. Although there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are a number of measures that can help reduce painful swelling in joints so as to avoid further damage to affected joints.
When patient’s joints are severely damaged due to rheumatoid arthritis, enumerated methods can be useful for alleviating pain & preventing further progress of this disorder.
- Medications – There are a number of medications that are generally prescribed by orthopedic surgeons to help reduce inflammation of joints & to relieve patient’s painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- NSAIDs – These are ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs’ which are helpful in minimizing pain as well as reducing swelling of joints. However, some side effects can be seen with most NSAIDs.
- Steroids – Corticosteroid medications can help lower pain, swelling & slowing of damage to bone of patient’s affected joints.
- DMARDs – These are ‘disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs’ which decrease the rate of progress of rheumatoid arthritis & thereby avoid permanent damage to tissues & joints.
- Biologic Agents – These are kind of DMARDs that work by targeting parts of immune system which trigger inflammation in joints & damage to tissues surrounding these joints.
- Physical / Occupational Therapy – Orthopedic surgeons may recommend a therapist who can teach patients certain exercises & movements that will help to keep joints flexible. This therapist can also suggest alternate ways to perform daily tasks which do not require using painful joints as far as possible.
There are various things a patient can do to lower chances of complications during surgery & to make recovery easier.
- Medications – Orthopedic surgeons may temporarily tell patients to discontinue some medications to help avoid infection in future. Patients may also need to stop taking blood-thinning drugs or aspirin a week or so before surgery. Patients should tell surgeons what medicines they are taking.
- Exercising – Before undergoing surgery for rheumatoid arthritis, surgeons may ask patients to practice walking smoothly on crutches in order to build up arm muscles since patients who are physically fit do better after surgery.
- Healthy Diet – Patients must eat a healthy & balanced diet which will enable faster recovery.
- Quit Smoking – Patients should stop smoking as it minimizes risk of complications following surgery.
- Weight Loss – Patients should try to lose excessive weight if they want to undergo joint replacement surgery.
- Preparing Home – Patients might need a family member or friend to help them with cleaning & cooking during the recovery process.
Patients need to understand the entire procedure to manage recovery following surgery of rheumatoid arthritis. Following questions are a good starting point for an initial appointment with orthopedic surgeons.
- What is rheumatoid arthritis?
- Which medications for rheumatoid arthritis do you suggest for me & why?
- What are the potential side-effects of these medications?
- How is the condition of my joints?
- Would occupational therapy or physical therapy help me?
- Will exercising help me?
- What types of activities are safe for me to perform?
- What lifestyle modifications do you suggest I need to make?
- Should I consult other surgeons for a second opinion?
- Are there any other complementary treatments that I should try?
- Should I opt for surgery for treating rheumatoid arthritis?
- What are my alternatives & prospects if I do not want to undergo surgery?
- Is there any risk if I delay surgery for treating rheumatoid arthritis?
- What can I do while preparing for surgery & enhancing chances for a successful outcome?
- What results can I expect from this surgery?
- How much time will it take for me to recover completely following surgery?
When all conservative options for treating rheumatoid arthritis are unsuccessful in alleviating patient’s pain & slowing degradation of joint tissues & bone, respective orthopedic surgeons may recommend surgical procedures & methods that will be helpful to patients. These surgeries are designed to restore patient’s ability to use joints normally. Surgical methods for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis may involve either one or a combination of following procedures.
- Total Joint Replacement – This surgery involves eliminating affected parts of patient’s bone joints & replacing them with prosthetic parts made from medical-grade plastic or metal.
- Tendon Repair – Swelling & damage to joints may result in the surrounding tendons getting ruptured or loosened. This surgery aims to repair these torn or damaged tendons.
- Joint Fusion – When joint replacement option is not viable, the orthopedic surgeon will stabilize or realign the affected joint so as to reduce pain through fusing together of joints & completely restricting its movement.
Patients need to stay in hospital for a few days. Patients can expect some discomforting pain & soreness, but medications will help control that. Patients will be monitored for any serious symptoms that they might develop after surgery. Physical therapists will help patients to understand the condition & will explain necessary exercises for easing pain. Patients should thoroughly learn physical therapy exercises & stick to the plan even when they get back home. In addition to this, patients must practice walking every day. It is necessary to take pain medications as prescribed by the surgeon, even when patients start to feel better, as medications can minimize the risk of further complications such as joint damage.
There are hardly any complications observed after surgery but it is essential to watch out for them. Patients should call surgeons if they notice any of the following complications.
- Patients have unusual swelling & pain in one leg
- Skin of around the affected area of surgery becomes hot or red
- Patients may develop high fever after surgery
- Wounds may drain pus or thick, foul-smelling fluid
- Patients may have pain in chest
- Noticeable shortness of breath
Rheumatoid arthritis can completely change the life of a patient. Patients need a long-term treatment plan to control symptoms & alleviate joint damage. Even after surgery, patients may still feel stiffness & pain. Patients may have to revise the way they carry out facile daily tasks. Self-care should become an indispensable part of patient’s daily life. Taking proper medications & exercising regularly will enormously benefit patients. Overall, patients will get satisfactory relief from arthritic pain following surgery.
Medical Tourism for Best Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Nowadays medical tourism is gaining popularity as an ideal opportunity for international patients seeking best & affordable healthcare provisions. Quite a few countries across continents are home to many internationally accredited multispecialty hospitals & clinics offering cost-effective & best treatments for a variety of ailments including rheumatoid arthritis. Be it the expertise of top surgeons or availability of state-of-the-art facilities, these facilities are no less than any other country in the world offering supreme treatments for any type of medical problem.
Surgery for Rheumatoid Arthritis with Travcure Medical Tourism
Travcure is a prominent healthcare provider offering most beneficial treatments & surgeries for a wide spectrum of medical conditions including rheumatoid arthritis. Travcure is associated with a vast network of reputed hospitals & clinics that have the most experienced & well-trained doctors including orthopedic surgeons. Travcure offers the best treatment package deals to international patients for undergoing surgeries for rheumatoid arthritis in countries like Turkey, Germany, United Arab Emirates (Dubai), South Korea (Seoul) & India. Healthcare experts at Travcure assist international patients throughout their medical tour & also arrange additional recuperation packages to ensure faster recovery following treatments.
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