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May 31, 2012

Healthy Living explores Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is incurable and can affect people of all ages. Although the causes of rheumatoid arthritis are not known; the options for treatment have improved. Early intervention can minimize the effects of the condition. This week’s Healthy Living tells us more about Rheumatoid Arthritis.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

It is one of the most feared forms of arthritis known for its debilitating effects. Understandably so, rheumatoid arthritis or RA is no joke. Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr Andre Sosa, explains why RA is a serious condition.


Dr. Andre Sosa, Orthopedic Surgeon

Andre Sosa

“Rheumatoid arthritis is one of a group of systemic inflammatory conditions; basically meaning that we have inflammation going on—in and around the joints—the moving joints. It brings with it pain; it brings with it swelling, but more importantly, it brings with it the possibility of lasting deformities in the joints and because of that it is important debilitating condition which affects a significant number of people all around the world and in Belize as well.”


Unlike other forms of arthritis that are due to the wear and tear of the joints. RA is an autoimmune disease where the body begins to attack the lining of the joints and causes many complications.


Dr. Andre Sosa

“Specifically we have the linings of the joints, a layer called the synoviun, which not only makes the capsules of the joint but also the sheet or covering of tendons. This becomes inflamed because of a reaction within the body. The short or the quickest result of this is the appearance of swelling and pain, but eventually what happens is that this ongoing inflammatory process results in damage to the cartilage that lines the surfaces of the joints and eventually the erosive effect goes down to the bone.”


It is not known why people develop rheumatoid arthritis although new research is providing a clearer picture. Some evidence suggests that viral infections like herpes virus can trigger RA.  There are several links that been established.


Dr. Andre Sosa

“Usually it tends to be people who are older than forty or fifty years of age. Also, more so women than men; women are about three times more likely than men to be affected. There seems to be a strong genetic predisposition to this condition; in other words, you inherit it from your parents.”


Early signs are like any other joint pain: the pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. The symptoms would be worst in the morning and last one to two hours or even the whole day. This long duration of the pain is a clue that you may have RA and should seek your doctor’s advice.


Dr. Andre Sosa

“Pain and swelling affect our lives—they are potentially debilitating, they are certainly uncomfortable. Eventually what happens is that the joints are eroded, they are broken down so to speak and it affects your ability to move around, it affects your independence, it affects your ability to earn a living. So it is important to start as soon as possible on treatment that will prevent this from occurring. Some sources say that delaying treatment with this class of medications that alter the progression of joint damage, if you delay treatment by even a few weeks; that can have a lifelong impact on you.”


The treatment for RA includes medication that would slow down the damage to the joints; which would prevent or delay any permanent deformities. According to Dr Sosa, the biggest mistake patients tend to make is to self medicate. Over the counter pain relievers would only alleviate pain but not stop the progression of the disease.


Dr. Andre Sosa

“Metotrexate is one of the medications used to prevent the progression to joint damage. There are others that we may see on TV which are at the moment not available. Many times, these specialized medications are used under the guidance of a rheumatologist or an internal medicine specialist and cost is a factor. Some of them are so expensive that they are not really available here in Belize.”


Although the condition is more common in older persons, it doesn’t mean it can’t affect younger persons. Dr Sosa advises anyone showing signs of RA to check in with their doctor.


Dr. Andre Sosa

“It is important that sufferers make the effort to be diagnosed, first of all. Remember that the symptoms of joint pain don’t always lead to a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. There are other conditions such as lupus for example and a host of other connective tissue disorders. So it is important to differentiate. But having gotten a diagnoses; one has to make a concerted effort to eat properly, to maintain yourself hydrated, to do regular exercise, to get out in the sun, vitamin supplements such as vitamin D can be helpful as well and basically try to lead as healthy a lifestyle as is possible. But saying that, there is also a curiosity that people who have mild to moderate consumption of alcohol seem to be less exposed to the risk of suffering rheumatoid arthritis. So a little nip here or there, once in a while, can be helpful.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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