Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that causes swelling and damage to the joints of our body, especially the fingers, wrists, feet and ankles. In some people, it may affect other parts of the body, such as the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.

Causes of rheumatoid arthritis

When the synovium surrounding your joints is attacked by your immune system, rheumatoid arthritis occurs. The cartilage and bone within the joint can be destroyed by the associated inflammation. Then, the tendons and ligaments get weakened, too. In a long run, the joint loses its shape and alignment.

Scientists still don’t know the exact cause of this process. But, they suggest that environmental factors like infection can trigger the disease.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

If having these symptoms occur, you may have rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Tender and swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness
  • Fever, weary and loss of weight

Usually, early rheumatoid arthritis will affect your smaller joints first. In the process, symptoms will spread to other parts of your body like ankles, elbows, knees, hips, and so on.

Also, in some cases, people who have rheumatoid arthritis experience signs in other body areas rather than the joints. Those areas include salivary glands, nerve tissue, bone marrow, heart, etc.

Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice these symptoms above.

Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis

In the physical exam, your doctor will check for inflammation, redness or warmth at your joint. Also, they might exam your reflexes and muscle strength.

  • Blood tests such as an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation (ESR) or C-reactive protein (CRP) may tell if there is any inflammation in your body.
  • Imaging tests like X-rays or MRI can track the progression of rheumatoid arthritis in the joints.

Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis

To help relieve rheumatoid arthritis condition, your doctor often recommends medications, therapy, surgery and alternative medicine.

Medications. The type of medication prescribed will base on the severity of your symptoms. They are:

  • NSAIDs that reduce pain and inflammation such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Steroids which are corticosteroid medications, like prednisone, have an effect on relieving swelling and pain.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that help to slow down the progression of this condition and save the joints from permanent damage. They include methotrexate, leflunomide, hydroxychloroquine, and sulfasalazine.
  • Biologic agents which are known as biologic response modifiers. They include abatacept, anakinra, etanercept, golimumab, infliximab, and so on.

Therapy like a physical or occupational therapy that can help you keep your joints flexible.

Surgery. In the case that medications cannot prevent or slow down your condition, surgery will be a good choice. Your doctor will consider what kind of surgery that works for you. It can be synovectomy, tendon repair, joint fusion and total joint replacement.

Some alternative treatment such as consuming fish oil, plant oils, or doing Tai chi could reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain and stiffness.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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