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The Basics of Autoimmune Arthritis

Autoimmune arthritis denotes various types of arthritis or inflammation of the joints caused by a person’s immune system that attacks his/her own joints. This leads to an inflammation that can cause pain, stiffness, and mobility problems as well as the destruction of the joints.

There are a few diseases categorized under autoimmune arthritis. The most common example is rheumatoid arthritis. Now, samples of less common types include psoriatic arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Who Is At A High Risk Of Developing Autoimmune Arthritis?
Women aged 55 and below with a smoking history are especially at high risk.

What’s The Difference Between Normal Arthritis And Autoimmune Arthritis?
We seldom use the term ‘normal arthritis’. It probably means arthritis related to other diseases. The common type is Osteoarthritis due to degenerative causes such as the aging process or via injuries as well as gout due to a high content of uric acid.

How Do You Diagnosis Autoimmune Arthritis?
To diagnose autoimmune arthritis, we need to perform a detailed investigation of one’s health history and carry out a physical examination to look for signs of arthritis and other clues. Of course, there is also a blood investigation, specifically inflammatory markers, and followed by an antibody test like rheumatoid factor, antinuclear antibody, or extractable nuclear antigen.

How Do You Treat Autoimmune Arthritis?
The treatment usually consists of four groups of medications:-

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve pain and reduce inflammation but only temporarily.

2. Steroids
Corticosteroid medications reduce inflammation and pain and slow down joint damage. Its function is similar to a pain killer but probably with less short-term side effects.

3. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
These drugs can slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and save the joints and other tissues from permanent damage.

4. Biological agents
These drugs can target parts of the immune system that trigger inflammation causing joint and tissue damage. However, these types of drugs also increase the risk of infections, hence we reserve these drugs for patients who fail conventional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or have very aggressive RA.

Source image: Metabolomic Medicine

Please describe the dietary habits suitable for autoimmune arthritis patients.
There have been no specific diets recommended for autoimmune arthritis patients as the cause is unknown. Nevertheless, we should consume a healthy diet that consists of 2/3 of plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in order to have a healthy body to fight against this disease.

Prevention tips for autoimmune arthritis:
Unfortunately, as the cause of the disease is unknown, we can’t prevent autoimmune arthritis. We can only treat and suppress it when it occurs. The advice is to seek doctors’ advice if you encounter any form of joint pain. The key point is to diagnose early and treat early, in order to prevent joint damage.

Dr. Kuan Woon Pang
Consultant Internal Medicine Physician & Rheumatologist
Columbia Asia Hospital – Bukit Rimau

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