3 FAQs About Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks tissue in the joints. According to recent statistics, there are about 1.5 million people living with rheumatoid arthritis. Each year, 71 out of 10,000 people get diagnosed with this disease.

If you would like to know more, here are some answers to three frequently asked questions about rheumatoid arthritis.

1. What Are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

In the initial stages of rheumatoid arthritis, the joints in the fingers and toes might feel warm or stiff. Many people ignore these symptoms as they don't believe it's anything serious. They might just think feeling aches and pains in their joints is a sign of getting older. These symptoms normally flare-up, disappear, and then come back again. Eventually, swelling and stiffness will begin to affect the hips, knees, and shoulders.

Other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include fatigue, low-grade fevers, anemia, and weight loss. These symptoms vary from person to person, which makes it hard to get an accurate diagnosis. Women, smokers, and those who are obese or have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis have an increased chance of getting this autoimmune disease. 

2. How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated?

Those who have symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis should see a doctor right away. The doctor will most likely refer them to a rheumatologist. This kind of specialist treats conditions that affect the muscles, bones, and joints. Mild symptoms might only require over-the-counter pain medication or corticosteroid medications, which help to decrease inflammation and slow down damage to the joints. A rheumatologist might also prescribe physical therapy. Severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis may require surgery.

Surgical procedures for rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Synovectomy
  • Tendon repair
  • Joint fusion
  • Total joint replacement

These kinds of procedures help to restore the use of the joint and reduce pain. If joint replacement is necessary, the joint will be replaced with a prosthesis. It's important to note that treatment won't cure rheumatoid arthritis, but it can help to alleviate the symptoms.

3. What Complications Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause?

If rheumatoid arthritis goes untreated, it could result in continual pain, inflammation, and even damage to the joints. When the joints become damaged, it can be very difficult to complete everyday tasks. In worst-case scenarios, rheumatoid arthritis is disabling and can prevent a person from working.

Other complications associated with rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Rheumatoid nodules
  • Infections
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Lung disease

Along with treatment, certain lifestyle changes can decrease the chances of complications developing. These lifestyle changes include exercises, dietary changes, such as reducing sugar intake, and maintaining a healthy weight.

For more information about rheumatoid arthritis, contact a local clinic, such as Sarasota Arthritis Center.