Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that, if not treated properly, it is progressive and debilitating.
L ‘ rheumatoid arthritis affects the joints equipped with articular membrane, but sometimes also other organs and systems, such as the lung, the eye, the skin, kidney, etc.
It is not a rare disease, since it affects about 4 per thousand of the Italian population: it prefers women between 40 and 60 years of age, although it can appear at any age of life.
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:
- swelling of the small joints typically of the fingers and toes, due to the presence of joint effusion; however all joints can be involved in the arthritic process;
- joint pain , sometimes associated with redness of the overlying skin;
- stiffness of the joints with difficulty in moving them, especially in the morning, which tends to decrease progressively with movement, with heat, with the passing of the hours;
- appearance of bone erosions that destroy and deform the joints.
The diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is mainly clinical, based on an anamnesis and an accurate visit by the specialist: the rheumatologist.
Laboratory tests are required to confirm the diagnosis, such as the inflammation indices ( ESR and PCR ) and those to identify the presence of the antibodies involved in the genesis of the disease (the rheumatoid factor and the cyclic citrullinated anti-peptide antibodies).
To evaluate and monitor the presence of joint injuries over time, radiographs , CT scans , magnetic resonances and ultrasounds are used .
It is very important to make an early diagnosis , as it is precisely in the first months of the disease that the most substantial and often irreversible damages occur and that drug therapy obtains the maximum effect, with the possibility of sending the disease into protracted remission.
The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is mainly pharmacological : today very effective drugs are available, able to better cure this disease, with a personalized approach agreed with the patient.
The drugs are generally administered systemically, but sometimes local infiltrations with prolonged local action cortisone can be useful.
In some phases of the disease , physiotherapy sessions , the application of braces and, in the most serious cases, orthopedic surgery for correction or joint prosthesis can also be very useful to restore the full functionality of the joints compromised by the disease.