What is it?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic inflammatory disease process that may affect the entire body. The body’s immune response attacks the soft tissue in the joints causing inflammation and pain. Over time, the inflammation leads to compromises in the joint’s cartilage and bone.
There are signs that you can look for of rheumatoid arthritis including:
• Tender, warm, swollen joints
• Joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings or after inactivity
• Fatigue, fever and weight loss
Early rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect smaller joints first particularly those in your fingers and toes.
Blood test will be performed by your doctor in order to properly diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. People with this have an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate or C-reactive protein, which may indicate the presence of an inflammatory process in the body. Other common blood tests used for diagnosis look for anti-CCP antibodies.
Imaging tests may be used to track the progression of and judge the severity of the arthritis.
What are the treatment options?
At this time there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. But the sooner treatment is started with strong medications known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) the more likely you will see a remission of symptoms.
There are different medication options that your doctor will choose based on the severity of the arthritis. These drugs include NSAIDS, steroids, DMARDs, and biologic agents.
Your doctor may send you to a physical or occupational therapist, who can provide exercises to keep the joints moving and flexible. They may also provide new ways to perform daily tasks to aid in the reduction of symptoms.
If medications and therapy fail to prevent or slow joint damage, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair the damaged joints. Surgery can restore the ability to use the joint and can reduce pain and correct deformities. There are a variety of procedures that can be done for rheumatoid arthritis that your doctor may choose from, these include: synovectomy, tendon repair, joint fusion and total joint replacement.
Factors that may increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis include:
• Sex- females are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis
• Age- rheumatoid arthritis commonly begins between the ages of 40 and 60
• Family history
• Environmental exposures