Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by chronic inflammation in the small joints of the hands and feet, eventually leading to bone and joint deformities. It is caused by an autoimmune response that causes the body’s immune system to attack the membranes that surround the joints. While it can occur at any age, it is more common in people over the age of 40. Women tend to be affected more than men. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include pain, tenderness, and swelling in the joints; stiffness in the morning; firm nodules of tissue under the skin; and fatigue, fever, and weight loss. While the condition first affects the smaller joints, it can spread to larger joints, including the knees, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders. In some cases, symptoms come and go, with periodic flares of more intense pain. As the disease progresses, it deforms the joints and may cause them to shift out of place. Early stage rheumatoid arthritis is difficult to diagnose. Diagnostic techniques include conducting a physical exam, conducting blood tests, and taking X-ray images. While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, it can be treated with medications that reduce joint inflammation and slow joint damage. Physical therapy and occupational therapy are effective in promoting flexibility and developing modifications to daily activities to avoid aggravating the issue. In some instances, surgery may be necessary to reduce pain and correct deformities.