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Living with Arthritis 
 
by Jean Bailey Robor August 11, 2005

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It usually affects the wrist, hand, elbow, shoulder, knee, and ankle joints. Usually the joints on both sides of the body are affected. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. Pain occurs because of inflammation of the joint’s membrane lining. When you have RA, your immune system is producing too much of a protein called TNF-alpha. In moderate to severe cases, your physician may prescribe a medication that blocks production of TNF-alpha. Not only does pain and stiffness occur, but loss of movement can occur as well. Rheumatoid arthritis is not limited to the joints, but can also affect the body’s organs as well. With the progression of time, rheumatoid arthritis, like osteoarthritis, can become crippling. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown although genetic factors may be a reason.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Difficulty moving
  • Joint Pain
  • Joint Swelling
  • Joint Stiffness
  • You may also, but not necessarily experience fatigue, fever, or a decrease in appetite.

Diagnosing Rheumatoid arthritis:

Your physician may conduct a lab test to search for an antibody termed “rheumatoid factor” that is found in 80% of people diagnosed with RA. Also, in your physical examination, he will examine any swollen or tender joints. If you are diagnosed with RA, you should begin treatment immediately, under the care of your physician. Early treatment can prevent further joint damage.

Treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis:

Your physician may prescribe medications to slow or prevent joint destruction. These medications are called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. He may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers. Corticosteroid injections are sometimes used to ease flare ups of the disease. The goal of treatment is to retard the joint damage, reduce joint pain, and help you maintain your lifestyle by staving off permanent disability.

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