Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic debilitating disease that affects between 0.3 and 0.8 per cent of the world population according to the WHO.
Often starting at between 20 and 50 years of age, 300,000 patients in France suffer from it, and several thousands of new cases are reported every year. Women are more affected than men.
Within 10 years of the disease manifesting itself, more than 50 per cent of patients are unable to hold a full-time job. It limits the movements of the subjects with the disease in 80% of cases, and 25% are unable to perform everyday tasks.
Rheumatoid arthritis: a debilitating disease
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterised by inflammation and progressive destruction of the joints. As a reminder, inflammation is a mechanism that enables the body to defend itself against chemical, toxic and microbial attacks. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, this inflammation is excessive and continuously overexpressed, resulting in painful symptoms in the joints, causing irreversible lesions.
RA progresses by way of inflammatory attacks whose duration and intensity vary. Over time, complications appear, making it difficult for the patient to carry out simple everyday tasks.
In most cases, when the patient with RA suffers an acute attack of their illness, the patient manifests the following symptoms:
- Pain in the joints that can be continuous during the attack and have consequences on the patient’s state of mind.
- Swelling of one or several joints.
- Stiffness of the joints in the morning lasting between 30 and 60 minutes. This stiffness can reoccur if the patient stays still for too long.
Apart from the physical aspect, RA affects the daily lives of the patient in several ways. The patient suffering from the pathology has difficulty using their hands, suffers from fatigue, preventing them from perform certain everyday activities, leading to a feeling of frustration.
The diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis
The diagnosis of a RA is complex. The rheumatologist relies on several clinical signs and performs various tests come to a conclusion.
An examination of the joints
The doctor examines and tests the joints of their patient to assess their mobility, the level of pain, swelling… The doctor will also check the patient’s muscle strength.
Following this first observational stage, the doctor will carry out blood tests to check for:
- signs of inflammation.
- The presence of “rheumatoid factor” (tests called “Waaler-Rose” and “Latex”) gives an indication of the diagnosis of RA.
- The trace of other significant antibodies of an autoimmune disease.