What is rheumatoid arthritis? It’s an autoimmune disease (where your body fights itself) causing inflammation of the soft tissue lining the joints. Joint swelling occurs because the immune system can’t distinguish itself from foreign invaders causing antibodies against itself.
Are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis the same? No. Osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disease. Osteoarthritis occurs as a result of wear and tear on the joint causing the cartilage (the body’s shock absorber) to become damaged. Bone spurs are formed in osteoarthritis due to laxity or movement of the bones within the joint. Eventually, the bones rub together causing severe pain.
What are rheumatoid arthritis symptoms? Swelling, stiffness and pain. The autoimmune aspect of rheumatoid arthritis may also cause the symptoms of fatigue, weight loss and fever.
Which joints are most commonly affected? Any joint can be affected, but the most common ones are wrists, small joints of the hands and balls of the feet.
What is the cause of rheumatoid arthritis? No exact cause known. We believe that a combination of factors–genetics, immune abnormalities, environmental and hormone factors–may cause it.
Who gets rheumatoid arthritis? Women are at a higher risk for RA than men. Any race or age can get it, but the peak onset of disease is between 30 to 50 years of age. Family history of RA also increases your risk.
How is RA diagnosed? A comprehensive history and physical exam are done, with blood tests and x-rays to confirm.
What is the treatment? Medicines are used to help reduce joint pain and swelling and to help prevent joint damage. Early treatment works best. Steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs and other immune changing medicines may help.
How can patients with RA feel better? Exercise. Swimming, walking or cycling four to five times a week will help with muscle strength and mood. Stop smoking. Eat healthy foods. Stay up to date on vaccines as this is a disease affecting the immune system. Control blood pressure, blood sugars, and cholesterol.
The goal: To lead a long, productive, and comfortable life.
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