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RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS (RA)

What You Need To Know
WHAT IS RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints. It causes inflammation, pain, stiffness, and swelling in the affected joints, leading to reduced mobility and joint deformities over time.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the joints, called the synovium. This immune response triggers inflammation, which can eventually lead to the erosion of cartilage and bone within the joints.

RA can affect multiple joints throughout the body, including the hands, wrists, knees, ankles, and feet. It can also cause systemic symptoms, such as fatigue, fever, and weight loss.

 

Women are more commonly affected by RA than men, and the disease often develops between the ages of 40 and 60, although it can occur at any age.

HOW TO GET A DIAGNOSIS

The diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) involves a combination of clinical assessment, laboratory tests, and imaging studies. Here are the typical steps involved in diagnosing RA:

  • Medical History and Physical Examination: Your doctor will begin by discussing your symptoms, medical history, and family history of autoimmune diseases. They will perform a thorough physical examination, paying close attention to joint swelling, tenderness, and range of motion.

  • Blood Tests: Several blood tests can help in the diagnosis of RA and rule out other conditions. These tests may include:

    • Rheumatoid Factor (RF): RF is an antibody commonly found in individuals with RA, but it may also be present in other conditions.

    • Anti-Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide (anti-CCP) Antibodies: These antibodies are more specific to RA and can be detected in the early stages of the disease.

    • Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) and C-Reactive Protein (CRP): These tests measure markers of inflammation in the body, which can be elevated in RA.

    • Complete Blood Count (CBC): This test can reveal signs of anemia or other blood abnormalities associated with RA.

  • Imaging Studies: X-rays, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be ordered to assess joint damage, inflammation, and other characteristic features of RA. These imaging studies can help monitor disease progression over time.

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SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
  • Joint Pain and Stiffness: Persistent joint pain, tenderness, and stiffness, often worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity

  • Joint Swelling and Redness: Inflamed joints may appear swollen, warm to the touch, and red.

  • Fatigue: Many individuals with RA experience persistent fatigue, a general feeling of being tired and lacking energy, which can significantly impact daily activities.

  • Reduced Range of Motion: As RA progresses, joint inflammation can lead to decreased flexibility and limited range of motion.

  • Systemic Symptoms: RA can affect other parts of the body beyond the joints. It may cause systemic symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and a general feeling of being unwell.

  • Joint Deformities: Over time, the inflammation and joint damage in RA can cause joint deformities, such as the characteristic swan-neck or boutonniere deformities in the fingers.

  • Rheumatoid Nodules: Some individuals with RA may develop small, firm bumps called rheumatoid nodules, typically under the skin around the affected joints.

  • Eye Inflammation: Inflammation of the eyes, known as uveitis, can occur in people with RA and may cause redness, pain, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light.

CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with RA. They provide symptomatic relief but do not alter the course of the disease.

  • Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs): DMARDs, including methotrexate, sulfasalazine, and hydroxychloroquine, are often prescribed as the first-line treatment for RA. These medications work by suppressing the immune system and slowing the progression of joint damage.

  • Biologic DMARDs: Biologic DMARDs target specific proteins involved in the immune response. These medications are usually prescribed for moderate to severe RA when DMARDs alone are insufficient.

  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, may be prescribed for short-term use to quickly reduce inflammation and control symptoms during flare-ups. Long-term use of corticosteroids is generally avoided due to the risk of side effects.

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HOW WE CAN HELP YOU

A Functional Medicine Approach to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Our approach to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying factors that contribute to the development and progression of the disease.

We take into account the unique genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors of each individual.

Here are key aspects of a functional medicine approach to RA:

  • PERSONALISED ASSESSMENT: A thorough evaluation is conducted to understand the individual's medical history, lifestyle, diet, stress levels, environmental exposures, and potential triggers. This helps identify underlying imbalances and potential root causes of inflammation and immune dysfunction.

  • COMPREHENSIVE TESTING: We may utilise specialised laboratory tests to assess immune function, gut health, nutritional status, hormonal balance, toxic burden, and potential infections. These tests provide a more detailed understanding of individual imbalances and guide treatment strategies.

  • DIETARY SUPPORT: A nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet is emphasised. Foods that may trigger inflammation or worsen symptoms, such as processed foods, refined sugars, and certain allergens, are typically avoided. Individual food sensitivities may be identified through elimination diets or laboratory testing.

  • GUT HEALTH SUPPORT: The gut plays a significant role in immune system regulation. Functional medicine approaches often include strategies to support gut health, such as addressing dysbiosis (imbalanced gut flora) with probiotics or targeted antimicrobial treatments. Leaky gut syndrome, if present, may be addressed through diet, lifestyle modifications, and specific nutrients that support gut healing.

  • STRESS REDUCTION: Stress can contribute to immune dysregulation and exacerbate RA symptoms. Stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness practices, meditation, yoga, and counseling, may be incorporated to support emotional well-being and improve overall health.

  • LIFESTYLE MODIFICATIONS: Regular exercise, appropriate for an individual's condition, is encouraged to improve joint function, strength, and overall well-being. Adequate sleep, good sleep hygiene practices, and stress management techniques are important to support healing and reduce inflammation.

  • TARGETED SUPPLEMENTS: Individualised supplementation plans may be recommended based on specific needs identified through testing or clinical evaluation.

 

  • MANAGING AND REDUCING INFLAMMATION: Reducing overall inflammation in the body is a focus of functional medicine. This can involve dietary and lifestyle modifications, targeted supplementation to support a balanced immune response.

To take a proactive role in managing your health, we encourage you to reach out to our team. We have extensive experience assisting individuals with conditions such as Hashimoto's disease and are dedicated to helping you improve your symptoms and overall well-being.

SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT WITH US TODAY. 

 

 We offer a range of appointments in-person or online. 
You will receive the same service and expertise from us through our virtual, online clinic, just as you would if you visited us at our London clinic.

To discuss how we can assist you, call us on 020 3886 1339, or email us at  hello@autoimmunecliniclondon.com.

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