Rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most common forms of arthritis, is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the joints. It can affect any joint in the body, but is particularly troublesome in weight-bearing joints like the hips. Left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can cause gradual hip injury, the inflammation it produces slowly degrading the joint to cause loss of function and disability. Often, with effective treatment, progressive joint damage can be slowed or the disease forced into remission.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a particularly aggressive joint disorder that is caused by an immune system that has gone wrong. The immune system is meant to protect the body against disease-causing agents, but when autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis happen, the immune system turns against the body, attacking healthy cells. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system primarily attacks the thin membrane that lines the joints, called the synovium. This leads to inflammation and thickening in that membrane, which causes its cells to release enzymes that break down bone tissue and cartilage. The exact cause of the disease is not known, but heredity, environmental factors and hormones may play a role in its development.
Hip rheumatoid arthritis causes symptoms that include severe pain, swelling and stiffness, and the hip may feel warm to the touch. Rheumatoid arthritis pain originating in the hip joint may cause stiffness and discomfort in the groin, lower back and thigh. Other symptoms of hip rheumatoid arthritis may include fatigue, fever, appetite loss, and pain or stiffness in other joints. Symptoms can appear gradually or suddenly.
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or DMARDs, are the primary form of treatment for the control of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. They are often used in conjunction with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen, or low-dose corticosteroids. Regular exercise or physical therapy is often part of the treatment plan, keeping hip muscles strong and flexible for good joint support.
In cases where hip injury and deterioration has progressed to the point that severe pain and disability are present, hip replacement surgery is often recommended. This is an option that is quite successful in about 80 percent of hip rheumatoid arthritis patients.
However, it is important for patients to review all implant options with their surgeons to reduce risk of complications. Faulty hip replacement systems have caused serious problems in patients over the last few years, with several products recalled after high rates of failure and complications.
Most of these issues involved metal-on-metal implant systems, which have metal surfaces on both the ball portion of the joint and the socket. Friction between these components caused the implants to shed particles of metal debris into the soft tissues surrounding the hip. In some patients, this caused metallosis, a serious and painful inflammatory condition that can lead to tissue death, bone loss and implant loosening or failure. Many options are available besides metal-on-metal implants.
Elizabeth Carrollton writes about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.com.
* picture provided by Columbus Spine