What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
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 between ages 25 and 55. 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 Causes
A combination of things may cause rheumatic diseases. A person could be born with the likelihood of getting a disease, but something happens to get the disease started. A cold, flu, or other type of virus could trigger a rheumatic disease in some people. Osteoarthritis may be caused by wear and tear on the joints or by an injury to a joint.
Being a woman may make a person more likely to get some of these conditions. Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and fibromyalgia are more common among women. This could mean that hormones or other differences between men and women play a role in the development of these diseases.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
- Swelling in one or more joints
- Stiffness around the joints that lasts for at least 1 hour in the early morning
- Constant or recurring pain or tenderness in a joint
- Difficulty using or moving a joint normally
- Warmth and redness in a joint.
The doctor will review your medical history and do a physical exam. The doctor will also probably want you to have lab tests such as blood tests or urine tests done. He or she may also want you to have x rays or other imaging tests done, such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). The doctor may need to see you many times to make an exact diagnosis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments
Treatments for rheumatic diseases include:
- Rest and relaxation
- Proper diet
- Water therapy
- Mobilization therapy
- Heat and cold therapies
- Instruction in how to care for the joints
- Special devices, such as aids to help open jars, close zippers, and hold pencils
- Splints or braces
- Surgery to restore function or to relieve pain.
Medication treatments available
You and your doctor can develop a plan that helps you maintain or improve your lifestyle. Different types of treatment may be needed for different conditions.