Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic medical condition where the joints of a person are affected, particularly in the hands and the feet, and other body parts including skin, eyes, heart, lungs, blood vessels, etc. It is of huge concern in India as there are over a million instances of rheumatoid arthritis in the present scenario.
As mentioned earlier, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. It occurs when the immune system of the body starts to attack its own self, particularly in the synovium lining of the membranes that surround the joints. The inflammation of the synovium stretch, weaken and destroy the tendons, ligaments, cartilages and the bone that it encompasses.
The factors that generally are seen to contribute to rheumatoid arthritis are the gender (men are more prone to it), ageing persons (mostly after 40 years of age), obesity in ageing persons, family history of the disorder, lifestyle problems such as smoking, and exposures to harmful elements in the environment. In short, the rheumatoid arthritis circles back to the effects of built up nutritional deficiencies due to a generally unhealthy lifestyle.
Symptoms & Diagnosis
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include – tender, inflamed and warm joints; stiffness in joints particularly in morning and after any kind of prolonged periods of inactivity; loss of function in joints; unnatural weight loss; fatigue and inability to work or concentrate; and fever. Initial symptoms affect the smaller joints in the hands and feet. As the condition progresses, the symptoms spread to other parts of the body.
In case rheumatoid arthritis remains unattended, it can cause deformity in joints. It also increases risk of developing osteoporosis, rheumatoid modules, dry eyes and mouth, infections, abnormal body compositions, carpal tunnel syndrome, heart disease, lung disease and lymphoma.
Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed through a physical exam where the joints, reflexes and the muscle strength are studied. In addition to this, blood tests (for ESR, CRP, anti-CCP, etc.) and imaging tests (X-ray, MRI, and ultrasounds) may also be required.
Rheumatoid arthritis is not completely reversible. It can only be managed through medications, alternative treatments and in worst case scenarios, surgeries.
Physical therapy is the best way to manage pain and restore flexibility and mobility in joints for rheumatoid arthritis patients in a therapeutic and holistic manner. The physiotherapist works on the joint flexibility, mobility, strengthening of muscles, etc., in order to ensure that the patient can lead a normal lifestyle.
What is important in addition to physical therapy is food and nutrition therapy since the immune system of the body needs restoration. The dietitian and nutritionist typically recommend an anti-inflammatory diet for a rheumatoid arthritis patient:
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fatty fishes (salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel), chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts find a place in the diet.
- In addition to this, antioxidants are necessary, i.e., food rich in vitamins A, C, E and selenium. Such antioxidant rich foods include berries (blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and goji berries), dark chocolate, spinach, kidney beans, pecans, artichokes, and so on.
- Fiber forms another essential part of the diet as they help reduce C – reactive protein levels. Foods rich in fiber include whole grains and food made from whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Another important part is the addition of flavonoids to the diet through soy products (tofu, miso, etc.), berries, green tea, broccoli and grapes.
- Foods to be completely avoided include processed carbohydrates, saturated fats and trans fats.
We at Eva Physiocare have developed a comprehensive wellness programme for rheumatoid arthritis patients that include physical therapy, exercise therapy and diet-nutrition therapy in order to manage it.