Polyarthritis means multiple joints getting affected. There are many varieties of the same. One of them, Rheumatoid arthritis is a very disabling disease.
It can affect more than ten joints, along with morning stiffness. There could be severe pain, swelling and redness over joints. This is basically an auto immune disease meaning that the patient’s immune system acting against its own joints. So, the problem is in the blue print (DNA) of the body, manifesting itself.
The severity of disease varies a lot, sometimes even making the patient bedridden. Treatment usually consists of medications to control the reactions in the joint, namely anti-inflammatory drugs. Next line medications include cytotoxic drugs, which can cause some side effects affecting the liver & blood cells. Side effects of the drugs need to treated as well, these include steroid causing osteopenia treated with Vitamin D and calcium and other Vitamin supplements to control the side effects of stronger dose medication. Research drugs which act at the molecular level, are available but are quite expensive and those can be tried in select cases.
So, during the treatment there should be constant monitoring of the blood cells and liver function. Doses need to be altered according to the severity of disease (during winter season arthritis symptoms could worsen needing more of the medication). Disease process occurs usually for a few years only. Spontaneously regression can happen and the disease process rarely goes on for a more than a decade.
During the process of affecting the joints, many a time permanent damage occurs, causing irreversible damage to multiple joints including hand & wrist, knee, hip, elbow, shoulder & ankle joints. But there is a solution to this problem in the form of joint replacement to get the patient back to good activity level. In short, though RA is a very disabling disease, with proper treatment patients can lead a near normal life.
-Dr B C Bhanu Prakash
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