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Rheumatoid arthritis

Understanding causes

Rheumatoid arthritis (formerly known as chronic polyarthritis) is an autoimmune disease whose cause has not yet been fully understood. According to current knowledge, both genetic readiness and environmental factors (such as smoking or periodontitis) play an important role in the development of the disease.

Facts and figures around the disease

In principle, anyone can develop rheumatoid arthritis regardless of age

  • In Germany, about 800,000 people suffer from rheumatoid arthritis
  • There are 3 times as many women as men are affected
  • Women between the ages of 40 and 50 most commonly suffer from rheumatoid arthritis
  • About 5% of those affected are younger than 16 years of age (Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis).

Typical symptoms and course of the disease at a glance

The characteristic feature of the disease is that it occurs in relapses, with symptom-free phases alternating with phases of severe discomfort.

Initital stage

  • Damage to bones and cartilage due to inflammation
  • Morning stiffness
  • Symptoms occur symmetrically (both halves of the body)

In the further course

  • Pain and swelling in the wrists, finger joints and ankles
  • Joint deformities and loss of mobility
  • Rheumatic nodes
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and lymphones

How does the physician make the diagnosis?

  • Clinical examination of the joints for pain and swelling
  • Measurement of inflammation values and rheumatoid factor
  • Determination of autoantibodies against citrullinated proteins (CCP)
  • Use of imaging techniques: X-ray, sonography, computer tomography or magnetic resonance tomography

How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?

  • Methrotrexate is the gold standard in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and is taken once a week in tablet form
  • Combination of cortisone and methotrexate protects against bone destruction at an early stage
  • Biologics are biologically produced substances that are directed against inflammatory messengers (tumour necrosis factor - α or interleukin-6) or inhibit their effect. They are used for the failure of therapy with methrotrexate.

Aims of the treatment

  • Inhibition of inflammation and relief of pain
  • Protection against bone and cartilage damage and thus
  • Preservation of the function of the musculoskeletal system
  • Avoidance of systemic late damages

Practical tips for everyday life

A well balanced, low meat diet, regular sporting activity, nicotine abstention


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