Rheumatoid Arthritis Information

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Rheumatoid arthritis (rue-ma-TOYD arth-write-tis) is a “complete body” form of arthritis. Typically, it involves inflammation, stiffness, swelling, and a limited range-of-motion of the joint. It can also cause inflammation of internal organs. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) typically affects multiple joints at once. RA is generally a chronic disease that continues to progress and cause pain and suffering. Unfortunately, there is no known cure. It is the second most common form of arthritis, just behind osteoarthritis. If left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to permanent disability.How do the symptoms manifest?Stiffness is generally at its peak early in the morning. The smaller and more distant joints such as the hands and feet are generally the most affected. RA can effect any joint however. In addition, the systemic effects can include loss of energy, loss of appetite, dry eyes and mouth (Sjogren’s Syndrome), low grade fevers, rheumatoid nodules (soft lumps around the arms).Who gets RA?Millions of people currently suffer from RA. The majority of people with RA are women, but there are many men who develop RA as well. It generally strikes the middle aged population, but can develop as early as 20s – 30s.What causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?We do not completely know what ultimately causes RA, but we do know that it appears to be an autoimmune style of disorder in which parts of the body’s own immune system malfunctions and attacks the joints and the body. There may be a genetic link.

What are some of the available treatments for RA?

While there is sadly no cure for RA, most therapies for reducing symptoms are generally fairly to very effective at easing pain and slowing the progression of the disease. Most treatments center around preventing disability and loss of quality of life as well as providing continual maintenance care to slow (in some cases very significantly) the progression of the disease.

How is RA diagnosed?

Only your doctor can tell you for sure that you have RA, but the most common methods of diagnosis include an analysis of symptoms, your medical history, lab tests, a physical exam, x-rays, and possibly a test for the rheumatoid factor. The rheumatoid factor is a test that detects an antibody that is found in roughly 80% of people with RA. Please be aware that there is currently no single test that will tell you if you do in fact have RA.

Information obtained from the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) booklet on rheumatoid arthritis. Their booklet is not copyrighted.

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