World Rheumatic Arthritis Day is celebrated every year on February 2 to raise awareness of rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease that affects the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), another name for rheumatoid disease, is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks and damages the lining of the joints, mistaking it for foreign material. This causes pain and inflammation. Although it can affect people of any age, sex, race or ethnicity, women are more likely to be affected (2.5 times more likely than men). The most common age group is between 20 and 50. As we observe this occasion, let’s understand its signs and symptoms. (Also read: Rheumatoid arthritis in young adults: Causes, symptoms and treatment )
Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day History
Alfred B. Garrod first used the word “rheumatoid arthritis” to describe the disease in 1858. It had previously been confused with osteoarthritis. Garrod defined the term and made a distinction between the two. There used to be traditional therapies such as bloodletting and lye. Drugs containing heavy metals began to show some promise. Until 1949, painkillers were not widely available.
The first methotrexate treatments became available in 1988. However, some patients experience a relapse after a few months or weeks of remission. Later, in 2011, a group of patients founded the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. The organisation aims to raise public awareness of the disease and the treatments available. In 2013, the charity launched Rheumatoid Awareness Day to raise awareness and dispel some common misconceptions about the disease.
Significance of Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day
Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day is an important day for raising awareness of this chronic autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide. This day serves as a platform to educate the public, advocate for early diagnosis and treatment, and support those living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). By raising awareness, encouraging research initiatives and promoting access to care, this day plays a crucial role in improving the quality of life of people affected by RA and advancing efforts to find a cure. It also offers solidarity and encouragement to patients, carers and healthcare professionals in their journey to manage this complex disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
“One common kind of arthritis with unique features is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It generally affects smaller joints, particularly those in the wrist, fingers, and foot. Accurate diagnosis and successful treatment of rheumatoid arthritis depend on an understanding of its distinctive characteristics. Immune system breaks down in rheumatoid arthritis, which leads to white blood cells attacking the joint lining. Inflammation brought on by this autoimmune reaction causes joint discomfort and oedema. Comprehending the immune foundation of RA is essential for customising suitable therapy regimens and strategies,” says Dr Girish Kakade, Consultant – Rheumatologist, Sahyadri Super Speciality Hospital, Deccan Gymkhana, Pune.
He further shared with HT Digital, “When it comes to the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, it’s necessary to consider a range of indicators. Patients typically experience joint inflammation, commonly affecting the hands, fingers, feet, and knees. This can manifest as pain, tenderness, swelling, warmth, redness, and stiffness. Some additional symptoms include joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings and after inactivity, and morning stiffness that lasts for 30 minutes or longer.”
“Additional signs and symptoms might include weakness and oedema in the joints, exhaustion, fever, and appetite loss. It’s also important to remember that many joints are usually impacted, with minor joints like the wrists and specific joints in the hands and feet frequently being the first to be affected. Apart from joints, RA can affect various other organs of the body in the long term, such as eyes, lungs, blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment can prevent these complications of RA,” says Dr Girish.
He revealed, “Younger people are susceptible to developing RA, which can have a significant effect on the wrist, fingers, and feet. The characteristic symptoms of RA, such as weariness, stiffness in the morning, and chronic pain, are partly caused by the immune system’s misdirected attack on the joint linings in the body. It is important to remember that rheumatoid arthritis is not exclusive to the elderly.”
“Since various kinds of arthritis can appear in people as young as 50 or 60, it’s critical to take a wider age range into account while diagnosing and treating these disorders. Accurate diagnosis and treatment of arthritic disorders can be facilitated by understanding the unique patterns of joint involvement and the function of the immune system in Rheumatoid arthritis,” concluded Dr Girish.