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Stiffness, Pain, Swelling? Your Immune System Might Be Attacking Your Body.

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by the team at Speedoc, May 20, 2020

Today, May 20, is World Autoimmune Arthritis Day. Around 300 million people worldwide are affected by some form of autoimmune or autoinflammatory arthritis. In this article, we’ll break down what autoimmune arthritis is.

What It Is

Autoimmune arthritis refers to the type of inflammation-driven arthritis caused by certain autoimmune diseases. These autoimmune diseases cause the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack normal cells. While ‘arthritis’ mainly relates to the joints and joint lining, the inflammation travels through the bloodstream and affects the entire body, including other organs and tissues.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common type of autoimmune arthritis. In fact, RA is the most common chronic inflammatory arthritis in Singapore, affecting around 1% of our population. The cause of RA is largely unknown and differs between individuals. It involves some combination of genetic and external triggers. Certain infectious agents in the environment trigger an inflammatory response in the body, causing the immune system to attack organs like the lungs and eyes.

Skeleton model of a hand

Symptoms of Autoimmune Arthritis

Symptoms are usually gradually progressive, more subtle, and often come and go. As a result, it could be hard to detect them in the early stages. According to the International Foundation for Autoimmune & Autoinflammatory Arthritis, these are the symptoms patients in the early stages of an autoimmune disease experienced:

  • Unusual and severe fatigue, not due to lack of rest or caffeine. 
  • Malaise – muscle weakness, and general discomfort.
  • Skin rashes- some skin rashes are associated with autoimmune conditions.
  • Fever, which could be low or high-spiking depending on the condition.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms of arthritis (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis), consult your doctor immediately to get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible:

  • Unusual stiffness or pain in the joints, especially after a period of inactivity (such as when waking up in the morning). Cold weather can also make arthritic joints stiffer, but thankfully, we live in a tropical climate that will not aggravate your condition.
  • Reduced range of motion, such as difficulty turning a faucet, gripping utensils, or even writing.
  • Swelling around the joints. Arthritis usually affects smaller joints like the wrist, hands, and feet.

Person holding his/her wrist

Treatment for Autoimmune Arthritis

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for autoimmune arthritis. Treatment can involve a combination of medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, immunosuppressant drugs and more. Physical therapy can also help to strengthen the joints, reduce pain, and improve flexibility. In severe cases, surgery might be needed to replace badly damaged joints.

Doctor treating patient’s ankle

How Speedoc Can Help

Displaying some of the above-mentioned symptoms and worried that you might have developed autoimmune arthritis? Get connected with a Speedoc doctor within minutes with our telemedicine service to get your queries answered. Prefer a face-to-face consultation with a doctor? Speedoc’s on-demand doctors and nurses are available to make a house visit any time of the day.

If you have already been diagnosed with arthritis, Speedoc can refer you to a rheumatologist from our network of specialists, who will be able to help you devise a personalised care plan. For simple medicine refills, Speedoc can help arrange for medicine delivery to your door as well.

Try out our telemedicine service through our app, available on the App Store or Google Play Store. Alternatively, you can make an appointment for a house call visit through our online system or contact our hotline at +65 8180 8948.

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