Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that typically affects the small joints in your hands and feet. Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long lasting autoimmune disorder that primarily affects joints. It typically results in warm, swollen, and painful joints. Pain and stiffness often worsen following rest. Most commonly the wrist and hands are involved with typically the same joints involved on both sides of the body. The disease may also affect other parts of the body. This may result in alow red blood cell count, inflammation around the lungs, and inflammation around the heart. Fever and low energy may also be present. Often symptoms come on gradually over weeks to months.
While the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not clear, it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The underlying mechanism involves the body’s immune system attacking the joints. This results in inflammation and thickening of the joint capsule. It also affects the underlyingbone and cartilage. The diagnosis is made mostly on the basis of a person’s signs and symptoms. X-rays and laboratory testing may support a diagnosis or exclude other diseases with similar symptoms. Other diseases that may present similarly include systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriatic arthritis, andfibromyalgia among others.
The goal of treatment is to improve pain, decrease inflammation, and improve a person’s overall functioning. This may be helped by balancing rest and exercise, the use of splints and braces, or the use of assistive devices. Pain medications, steroids, and NSAIDs are frequently used to help with symptoms. A group of medications called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs(DMARDs) may be used to try to slow the progression of disease. They include the medications hydroxychloroquine and methotrexate. Biological DMARDs may be used when disease does not respond to other treatments.However, they may have a greater rate of adverse effects. Surgery to repair, replace, or fusion joints may help in certain situations. Most alternative medicine treatments are not supported by evidence.