Arthritis has a “geriatric” connotation, yet it may affect any age group. The term means joint disease/ disorder. Arthritis can be due to many causes such as degeneration or destruction that is age-related or trauma related, infectious, inflammatory, and/or autoimmune. This post is about Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune related arthritis affecting the neck, back and limb joints.
What is autoimmune arthritis?
Firstly, inflammatory arthritis is due to an autoimmune disease. The immune system doesn’t work properly and releases inflammatory chemicals. Secondly, the resulting inflammation attacks joint tissues and can cause joint swelling, cartilage/bone damage, and muscle loss. Thirdly, the inflammatory chemicals may activate nerves around the joints and other parts of the body and lead to pain as well. Lastly, because most of the inflammatory forms of arthritis are systemic (effects entire body), symptoms related to inflammation may occur in other parts of the body, including skin rashes, eye inflammation, hair loss, dry mouth, and fever.
Inflammatory arthritis includes a group of arthritis accompanied by joint pain, swelling, warmth, tenderness in the joints, and morning stiffness that lasts for an hour. And joints affected are many joints throughout the body at the same time. Moreover, inflammatory forms of arthritis are much less common than osteoarthritis (wear and tear arthritis), which affects most people at the later stages of life.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder causing an inflammatory arthritis occurring mostly in 25-55 year old women. The common joints involved are hand, ankle, foot, toes, wrist, knee, elbow, shoulder (glenohumeral joint, acromioclavicular joint), neck (atlantoaxial joint, first and second cervical vertebrae of spine) and hips (femoracetabular joints).
Rheumatoid Arthritis often starts as finger or wrist pain. The joints involved most frequently are the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) and metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints of the (base of) hands. You may feel the joints are swollen and that in the morning it takes over an hour to be able to move the fingers comfortably. Furthermore, you may feel fatigue and have possible weight loss.
So pain, warmth and associated periarticular (around the joint) soft tissue swelling, stiffness, and range of motion restrictions are signs and symptoms. Also at some point, the body or limb will be affected bilaterally (both sides).
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder causing an inflammatory arthritis. What happens is the joint forms a reactive pannus. And the pannus is a hypertrophied synovium (overgrowth of lining of joint). This pannus invades and erodes contiguous (nearby) cartilage and bone, causing swelling and eventual erosion. Finally, later changes include flexor (finger folding soft tissue) contractures and ulnar deviation (bend abnormally toward your little finger) of the fingers.
Is rheumatoid arthritis genetic or environmental?
Multiple genetic and environmental factors have been associated with an increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Associations have been seen with being female, a family history of RA, and with exposure to tobacco smoke.
Also, if you possess the class 2 human leukocyte antigen (HLA), you have a genetic predisposition to getting Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Observations in studies show that HLA genes play an important role in the etiopathogenesis (cause and development of disease) of RA. Scientists say the genes provide a sort of ‘prearthritic’ immunological background on which the triggering factors for RA thrive.
A positive rheumatoid factor test result indicates that a high level of rheumatoid factor was detected in your blood. A higher level of rheumatoid factor in your blood is closely associated with autoimmune disease, particularly rheumatoid arthritis. A positive rheumatoid factor (IgM antibody) is found in 75% of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis. A rheumatoid factor test is the most useful test to diagnosis rheumatoid arthritis.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
ESR is a blood test that gives your doctor an idea of the inflammation levels in your body. An ESR test measures the rate of fall (sedimentation) of red blood cells (erythrocytes) in a test tube. Lab testing will reveal elevations in erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) in Rheumatoid Arthritis cases.
C–Reactive Protein (CRP) Test
The CRP test measures the level of C–reactive protein. This is a protein made by your liver. Blood levels may be higher when you have inflammation or an infection.
Complete Blood Count (CBC test )
Anemia (often hypochromic and normocytic) develops in autoimmune disease such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and is found in the CBC test. Anemia occurs if your body makes too few red blood cells (RBCs), destroys too many RBCs, or loses too many RBCs.
First, if you have anemia, your body does not get enough oxygen-rich blood. Second, the lack of oxygen can make you feel tired or weak. Third, you may also have shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, or an irregular heartbeat.
Hypochromic normochromic anemia is the type of anemia in which the circulating red blood cells (RBCs) are the same size (normocytic) and have a paler than normal red color (hypochromic).
Imaging and X-Ray
Radiographic (x-ray) findings usually confirm the diagnosis. However, these are not evident in the early stages of the disease.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Juvenile means the disease starts around ages 5-10 years old. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis has the same findings as adult Rheumatoid Arthritis. Common joints involved are hand, foot, wrist, knee, elbow, heel, hip, and cervical spine (neck).
Lab work is similar to the adult type with the addition of urinalysis, and other laboratory tests.
Imaging and X-Ray
Radiographic (x-ray) findings are similar to the adult type with the possible addition of growth disturbances of bone and epiphyseal (growth plate of bone) injuries due to the autoimmune disease.
Treatment at Meiri Chiropractic
Firstly, inflammatory autoimmune disease/arthritis have an unpredictable course of remission and relapses. Secondly, treatment/management includes chiropractic manipulation treatment to keep the spine and extremity (arms and legs) joints flexible. Thirdly, stretching and postural exercises are very helpful. Finally, Chiropractic manipulation should be as gentle as possible considering the inflammatory nature of these diseases.
Indeed, long-term use of pain medication/drugs can cause gastric and renal (kidney) consequences. In conclusion, chiropractic along with the use of anti-inflammatory approaches in diet and supplement recommendations are beneficial in management of inflammatory arthritis.
At Meiri Chiropractic we spend the time necessary to examine, diagnose and treat every neuromusculoskeletal condition and various ailments you have. Chiropractic is a holistic and natural way to not only treat existing conditions, but to keep your body in its best working condition. We have been offering effective chiropractic care in Palm Beach County since 2006. Many of our patient reviews note our excellence. Call us today at 561-253-8984 to make an appointment or to find out more about Rheumatoid Arthritis: Autoimmune Disease and Chiropractic .