What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis or RA, is an inflammatory condition that affects the joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means the immune system, which normally acts as the body’s defense, becomes altered or confused. This leads to joint pain, swelling and stiffness. The stiffness is usually worse in the mornings, and tends to last longer than one hour. Rheumatoid Arthritis tends to affect the small joints of the hands and or feet, although it can affect many other joints as well. If untreated, it can cause damage.
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis affect places other than the joints?
Yes, it can sometimes affect the organs including the lungs and eyes.
What’s the difference between Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune, inflammatory arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a “wear and tear arthritis’ that is considered a degenerative arthritis, and results from the loss of the cushioning cartilage in between the joints. Osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disorder.
What causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Like most autoimmune disorders, it is not known what causes Rheumatoid Arthritis. There is an increased incidence in women. It most commonly occurs between the ages of 40 – 60, however, people of any age can get Rheumatoid Arthritis.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosed?
There is no single test that can diagnose RA, however, there are blood test available that can aid in the diagnosis. This is done in combination with a physical exam, and often imaging. It is important to diagnose this condition early, in order to avoid any damage to the joints. A Rheumatologist is specialized in diagnosing and treating this condition.
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis be treated?
Yes, there are numerous medications available to treat RA. Most of these medications alter the immune system in order to stop the attack on the joints and body. Over the past few decades there have been many more medications developed to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis, and these are very effective. With treatment, remission can be achieved, and most patients will continue to lead active lifestyles.
*For persistent joint pain that is interfering with your daily activities, see a rheumatologist to make the correct diagnosis and begin the proper treatment.