The Center for Disease control reports that almost 50 million people in the US have been diagnosed with some type of arthritis and 1.3 million people suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (“RA”). This is a chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorder that can have the crippling effect of deformity in the joints and erosion of the bones, attacking the small joints of hands and feet in particular. The painful swelling of rheumatoid arthritis is due to the affects RA has on the joint lining. This condition can affect the entire body, causing joint pain, fever and fatigue.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms and Warning Signs
Rheumatoid arthritis starts out by affecting the smaller joints, such as those connecting fingers and toes. Those who have developed RA may experience swollen joints, fatigue, fever, stiffness in the morning, weight loss, joint pain, and firm bumps under the skin on the arms, called rheumatoid nodules. As the arthritis continues to progress, these symptoms spread to the elbows, shoulders, ankles, knees, and hips.
These signs of rheumatoid arthritis may come and go, varying in intensity. The disease is prone to go through cycles of remission and flare-ups, giving those suffering from the condition times of relief and periods of increased pain. As rheumatoid arthritis continues through the disease process, the joints become deformed and can shift out of place.
Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are many factors that make people more inclined to develop RA. Studies have shown that women are more prone to develop this condition than men. While this is a disease from which people of any age can suffer, it most commonly appears in those between 40 and 60 years of age. A family history of rheumatoid arthritis also increases risk, as does smoking.
Discussing RA with a Doctor
If symptoms are persistent, a doctor’s appointment should be made immediately. Be sure to compose a list that describes the symptoms that have been experienced along with any current medications, past medical issues, family medical history, and any questions for the physician. The doctor may ask whether the symptoms have changed over time, when they started, and which joints were affected.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Options
Many patients are recommended for physical therapy, which helps to reduce stiffness and keep the joints flexible. Medications such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), steroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), immunosuppressants, TNF-alpha inhibitors, and a variety of other drugs may be used to treat RA. However, many of these drugs have very serious potential side effects. The doses of medications increase in strength as the disease progresses.
Surgery is another treatment option when medication fails to prevent or slow down joint damage. The surgical repair of joints may restore usage, reduce pain, and correct any deformities. Surgical procedures for RA include total joint replacement, tendon repair, and joint fusion. As with any surgery, there are risks which the patient should discuss with their doctor prior to treatment. Patients who are treated by highly skilled and reputable surgeons, such as the surgeons at St Pete Hip and Knee, have been able to return to a normal, active and healthy lifestyle.