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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers.

More women than men get rheumatoid arthritis. It often starts in middle age and is most common in older people. You might have the disease for only a short time, or symptoms might come and go. The severe form can last a lifetime.

Rheumatoid arthritis is different from osteoarthritis, the common arthritis that often comes with older age. RA can affect body parts besides joints, such as your eyes, mouth and lungs. RA is an autoimmune disease, which means the arthritis results from your immune system attacking your body's own tissues.

No one knows what causes rheumatoid arthritis. Genes, environment, and hormones might contribute. Treatments include medicine, lifestyle changes, and surgery. These can slow or stop joint damage and reduce pain and swelling.

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The following features are indicative of Rheumatoid Arthritis:
  • painful and swollen joints
  • difficulty moving joints
  • stiffness and pain in affected joints
  • fever
  • red, puffy hands
  • fatigue
  • hard bumps just under the skin near the joints
  • loss of appetite
It is possible that Rheumatoid Arthritis shows no physical symptoms and still be present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The following are the most common causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis:
  • when immune system attacks the synovium
  • genetic factors

Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Rheumatoid Arthritis:
  • age between 40 and 60
  • females
  • family history
  • smoking
  • obesity
  • environmental exposures such as asbestos or silica

Prevention of Rheumatoid Arthritis

No, it is not possible to prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • Mutations in the IL10 or the TNF gene

Occurrence of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Rheumatoid Arthritis cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Very common > 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Rheumatoid Arthritis most commonly occurs in the following age group:
  • Aged between 15-60 years

Common Gender

Rheumatoid Arthritis can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Rheumatoid Arthritis:
  • Physical exam: To evaluate your joints for swelling, redness and warmth
  • Blood tests: To detect the presence of rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies
  • X-rays: To record the progression of rheumatoid arthritis in your joints over time

Doctor for Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:
  • Rheumatologist
  • Orthopaedists
  • Physical therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Dietitians

Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis if untreated

Yes, Rheumatoid Arthritis causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Rheumatoid Arthritis is left untreated:
  • osteoporosis
  • rheumatoid nodules
  • Sjogren's syndrome
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • heart problems
  • lung disease
  • lymphoma

Procedures for Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The following procedures are used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis:
  • Surgery: To repair damaged joints and restore your ability to use your joint
  • Synovectomy: To remove the inflamed synovium
  • Tendon repair surgery: To repair the tendons around your joint
  • Joint fusion: To realign a joint and for pain relief
  • Total joint replacement: To remove the damaged parts of your joint and inserts a prosthesis made of metal and plastic
  • Physical therapy: To keep your joints flexible

Medicines for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Self-care for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Rheumatoid Arthritis:
  • Exercise regularly: Strengthen the muscles around your joints
  • Apply heat or cold therapy: Helps in relieving your pain and relax tense and painful muscles
  • Avoid stressful conditions: Avoid stress in your life to cope with pain

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Rheumatoid Arthritis:
  • Intake of Fish oil: Lowers the rheumatoid arthritis pain and stiffness
  • Consuming seeds of evening primrose, borage and blackcurrant plant oils: Helps in relieving the rheumatoid arthritis pain and morning stiffness
  • Practicing Tai chi therapy: Involves gentle exercises and stretches combined with deep breathing to relieve stress

Patient Support for Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The following actions may help Rheumatoid Arthritis patients:
  • Connect with others: Connect with other people who have rheumatoid arthritis makes you feel comfortable
  • Take time for yourself: To relieve stress

Time for Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Rheumatoid Arthritis to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • Disease cannot be treated but only maintained or effects reduced

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Rheumatoid Arthritis.

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