What Are The 4 Stages Of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease, characterized by inflammation, pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints.

It is an inflammatory disorder that primarily affects the joints. In this condition, the body’s immune system begins to attack the tissues and their functions.

As a result, the lining of the membranes surrounding the joints gets damaged, contributing to inflammation.

The damage will occur to bone, cartilage, and other structures related to the joint. RA is a progressive condition that can result in joint deformity, loss of function, and disability over time.

Stages of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that progresses through different stages. The experience can vary from one individual to another. Here are the four stages of RA:

Stage 1: Early stage or Preclinical RA

Early-stage rheumatoid arthritis (RA), also called pre-RA or preclinical inflammatory arthritis, refers to a stage of the disease before the onset of clinically clear symptoms.

Since this is the beginning phase of the disease, individuals may not yet experience the characteristic symptoms of RA, such as joint pain, swelling, or stiffness.

During this stage, therewon’t be significant damage, but the beginning of inflammation of the cartilage of the joints can progress.

Moreover, individuals may develop this disease due to both genetic predisposition and environmental factors like obesity, infections, smoking, etc.

Early detection of RA during this stage may help delay its progression or even prevent RA from developing by implementing preventative strategies.

Stage 2: Established RA

With the progression of the disease to the next stage, joint inflammation becomes more prominent. This can contribute to the damage of multiple joints, especially those present in the hands and feet.

Symptoms like joint pain, swelling, redness, warmth, and stiffnessbecome more severe. Stiffness can lead to inactivity, particularly in the morning, as the person struggles to do movements, for periods of around half an hour.

The joint damage is irreversible, contributing to joint deformity, and erosion of bone and cartilage. As a result, the person may face difficulties in performing the day-to-day activities, and their overall physical function gets impacted.

The treatment includes the management of the symptoms by reducing the inflammation, pain, and swelling, and preventing its rapid progression.

Stage 3: Moderate to severe RA

At Stage 3, the disease has progressed beyond the established stage, making it even more pronounced. During this stage, asignificant impact can be seen in daily functioning and quality of life.

Moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the stage of the disease where joint pain, inflammation, structural damage, and other symptoms become more severe.

In this stage, the symptoms become more pronounced and persistent, which can lead to disability or potentiate its risk.

This stage requiresserious and aggressive treatment approaches, as the disease has progressed too far. It is easy to manage it at this stage.

Healthcare providers will follow strategic treatment approaches, conduct regular monitoring, and call the patient for routine checkups. They may recommend medications, with a combination of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and necessary lifestyle changes.

Stage 4: Advanced or End-stage RA

The last stage, Advanced or end-stage rheumatoid arthritis (RA) refers to the most severe stage. When a person reaches this stage, the disease takes a debilitating form, where the damage is already done too much.

This stage signifies severe and extensive damage to the joint, functional impairment, and disability. The quality of life is significantly impacted.

When this stage is reached, individuals may experience unbearable pain, deformity, and loss of joint function.

Such severe symptoms make daily activities challenging, and they cannot even move without assistance. They often require support or accommodations for mobility and self-care.

Aggressive treatment and regular monitoring are essential for preventing any further damage and slowing down the progression. The patient also needs palliative care to manage the condition.

Ways to prevent rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is influenced by a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. It cannot be prevented completely, but with the help of some strategies, one can reduce the risk of developing it.

Here are some strategies to lower the risk of RA or delay its onset:

Maintain a healthy weight

Obese and overweight individuals are more likely to develop this disease. It is necessary to maintain a healthy weight with a balanced diet and regular physical activity.

Eat a balanced diet

Include foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids, and lean proteins, in your diet. Such foods can reduce inflammation and support joint health. Avoid consuming junk and processed foods.

Exercise regularly

Regular physical activity will keep you fit and avoid unnecessary weight gain. It helps improve your joint health, flexibility, muscle strength, and overall health.

Avoid smoking and alcohol

Such substances can increase your exposure to the disease. It is necessary to avoid using them.

Manage stress

Stress can have a detrimental impact on your overall health and well-being. Manage stress levels by implementing some stress-reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, therapy, etc.


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