What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. It can also cause fatigue, loss of appetite, and fever. RA is a chronic disease, which means it can last for years or even a lifetime.
RA usually starts between the ages of 40 and 60. However, it can occur at any age. People with RA are also at higher risk for other conditions, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and depression.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The exact cause of RA is unknown. However, it is thought to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
RA occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the tissues of the joints. This causes inflammation in the joints, which can lead to pain, swelling, and stiffness. Over time, this inflammation can damage the cartilage and bone in the joints.
What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The symptoms of RA vary from person to person. They can range from mild to severe and can come and go over time.
Common symptoms of RA include:
– Pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints
– Loss of appetite
– Weight loss
– Joint deformity
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor so they can diagnose and treat the condition.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed?
There is no single test that can diagnose RA. Instead, doctors will often use a combination of medical history, physical examination, and lab tests to make a diagnosis.
Medical history: A doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. They may also ask about your family history of arthritis or other autoimmune diseases.
Physical examination: A doctor will examine your joints for swelling, redness, and warmth. They may also check for joint deformity.
Lab tests: Blood tests can help doctors look for markers of inflammation or specific antibodies that are often present in people with RA.
Imaging tests: X-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds can be used to look for joint damage or deformity.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated?
There is no cure for RA. However, there are treatments available that can help relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
Treatment options for RA include:
– Medications: Doctors may prescribe drugs such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), or biologic agents.
– Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be needed to repair damaged joints.
– Lifestyle changes: Simple lifestyle changes such as exercise and relaxation techniques can help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
If you have RA, it’s important to work with your doctor to create a treatment plan that’s right for you. With proper treatment, many people with RA are able to live normal, active lives.