Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly mounts an immune attack against its own joints and connective tissues. RA can occur in any joint in the body, but most frequently occurs in those of the hands, feet, wrists, and knees. When left untreated, inflammation caused by RA can damage the cartilage and bone of the affected joint and cause the narrowing of the joint space and probable bone damage.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The exact cause of RA is unknown. It’s suggested that hereditary, hormonal, and environmental factors may all play a role in the development and progression of the disease.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Initially, patients with RA may not present with symptoms. As the disease progresses, the following symptoms are commonly seen:
- Stiffness, especially in the morning.
- Visible joint deformities
Additionally, fatigue, loss of appetite, and fever may present. One of the keys to effectively treating RA is an early diagnosis.
An orthopedic or sports medicine specialist can help to differentiate between the different types of arthritis and develop a proper treatment plan. The first step in an accurate diagnosis involves the taking of a detailed medical history that includes symptoms, medical conditions, and prior injuries. The second step involves a thorough examination of joint affected by RA. Finally, a blood test for antibodies linked to RA and medical imaging studies (x-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds) to view the joint are ordered. After an official diagnosis is made, a treatment plan can be decided upon.
Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
RA is a chronic disease that cannot be cured. The best way to treat RA is to manage its symptoms and prevent its progression. Many medications can be used. They include the following:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Medications that decrease inflammation and pain associated with RA.
- Fast acting anti-inflammatory medications that can be injected into the affected joint or taken orally.
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Medications that slow down the progression of the disease by modifying its course.
- Medications that decrease or stop an immune response by controlling steps in the inflammatory process.
- JAK inhibitors. Medications that inhibit an immune response.
When RA (or other arthridities) doesn’t respond to nonsurgical treatment and joint mobility and function are impaired, a joint replacement surgery may be considered.
Seeking Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you’re experiencing joint pain that won’t go away or if you’ve been diagnosed with RA and are looking for a treatment solution, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our 5 Fairfield County offices to make an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists.