Health TipsWhat You Need to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis

What You Need to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis – When diagnosed with RA, your doctor will likely prescribe medications to control the condition and to reduce the pain you’re feeling. These medications are often injected under the skin or into a vein. You may also need to use assistive devices to increase your balance and decrease strain. If your condition is more severe, your doctor may recommend surgical procedures to replace the joint. Treatment options for RA depend on the severity of your symptoms and on how well you respond to medications.

Early Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Some early symptoms of RA include fever, malaise, and arthralgias. As the condition worsens, it may also lead to swelling and inflammation of the joints. You can learn more about RA treatment in the Treatment and Medication sections below. The symptoms of RA vary from person to person, but the following are common signs. The disease typically affects the hands, wrists, ankles, knees, shoulders, elbows, and fingers.

Early treatment with disease-modifying drugs is essential for preventing joint damage and dysfunction. Many current treatments can control the disease, but the cessation of treatment may lead to the recurrence of symptoms. Generally, treatment is continued throughout the person’s life. Over time, the medication dosage may be reduced, but physical, occupational, and psychological therapies are still an important part of the regimen. Education is an important part of the treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Imaging tests are necessary for diagnosing RA. X-rays create images of the internal organs and tissues. Bone erosions can be a sign of RA, and imaging tests will show whether the disease has spread to the bones. Further testing of the joints may be necessary. Imaging tests, such as MRIs, can show whether you have RA. They may also reveal the presence of bacterial infections and the presence of rheumatoid factor, a substance in the blood.

Can Damage Joint Cartilage and Affect Overall Joint Structure

If the inflammation continues unchecked, it can damage the joint’s cartilage and affect the overall structure of the joint. If left untreated, this can deform the joint and cause it to fuse. Over 1.3 million people in the US are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and the prevalence of females is 2.5 times higher than in males at birth. If the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are bothersome, visit your doctor and discuss your treatment. If your doctor agrees, the medication can be adjusted accordingly.

In addition to medications, physical therapy can help you regain strength and flexibility. You may need more rest during flare-ups than during remission. Getting enough rest will also help you reduce inflammation. Use ice packs to relieve pain and muscle spasms. Alternatively, alternate hot and cold treatments to decrease stiffness and improve range of motion. Occupational therapy may also help you improve the function of your hands.

In the case of acute attacks, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often prescribed. They will reduce inflammation but will not stop the progression of rheumatoid arthritis in the long run. In cases of severe joint damage, physicians may prescribe disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or DMARDs. For severe cases, physicians may prescribe methotrexate or cortisone, which is more effective for long-term relief.

Surgery is a Treatment Option with Long-Term Effectiveness

Surgery is another treatment option. A joint replacement is a major operation that involves several days in the hospital and many months of rehabilitation. Although joint replacement has a limited lifespan of ten to twenty years, research shows that the procedure has limited long-term effectiveness. However, it is possible for some people to gain some benefits in the short term. Certain dietary changes, however, may have no impact on the condition.

While the causes of RA are unknown, certain genetic factors may make you more susceptible to the condition. Some cases may be triggered by bacteria or a virus, but it is not uncommon for an autoimmune disease to develop. The immune system sends antibodies to the joints’ lining, which causes inflammation and damages nearby tissues. Left untreated, RA can lead to the destruction of joints. The disease usually affects adults in their fifties or early sixties.

The symptoms of RA vary from person to person, but in most cases, the condition affects different parts of the body at once. Some people may experience stiffness in the joints, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, and difficulty moving the affected joints. In severe cases, the affected joints may be bent or deformed. To diagnose RA, lab tests, ultrasound, and x-rays may be done.


Firestein, Gary S. “Evolving concepts of rheumatoid arthritis.” Nature 423.6937 (2003): 356-361.

Deighton, C. M., et al. “The contribution of H LA to rheumatoid arthritis.” Clinical genetics 36.3 (1989): 178-182.


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