Rheumatoid Arthritis: The most common autoimmune arthritis
When rheumatoid arthritis (RA) strikes, the effects on the body can be tough to take. It causes joints throughout the body to swell, stiffen and ache with pain. RA can attack any joint in the body—fingers, wrists, elbows, knees, hips, ankles and feet—and, it can strike several joints at the same time, including those in the neck.
What causes RA?
RA is autoimmune arthritis where the immune system, designed to attack invaders or infections—attacks itself. In the case of RA, the body’s autoimmune response causes inflammation in the tissues which line the joints, as well as inflammation in various organs. Currently, smoking cessation is the only proven way of reducing one’s risk of developing RA.*
What are common RA Symptoms?
RA symptoms affect individuals in different ways, ranging from mild to severe. Common symptoms include painful, swollen and stiff joints—often most pronounced upon waking in the morning. Feeling fatigued, under the weather, and feverish are other common complaints.
How is RA diagnosed?
Rheumatologists are specialty physicians best trained to make a diagnosis of RA and other musculoskeletal and autoimmune diseases.
No single test can diagnose RA so a rheumatologist will take a patient’s complete medical history and order lab tests, X-rays and imaging studies. The goal of a thorough work-up is to rule out autoimmune diseases such as lupus, overuse injuries and fibromyalgia, which share many symptoms with RA.
How is RA treated?
Because each person’s RA presents with a unique set of symptoms, treatment options are highly individualized. Targeted therapies are often the first line of treatment, such as using DMARD—disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs—along with injections and infusions. Anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed to reduce pain, with a healthy diet, physical therapy and exercise all part of an RA care plan.**
Getting RA under control is an ongoing process between a patient and a trusted rheumatologist. Great strides have been made in treating RA to prevent joint damage and to make everyday life more enjoyable, active and pain-free.**
*Angus B Worthing, MD, FACR, FACP, Arthritis and Rheumatism Associates, PC (arapc.com)
** Ibid + National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (niams.nih.gov. on rheumatoid arthritis)