It is an inflammatory disease, which mainly affects the joints and tendons.
An inflamed joint looks swollen and red, and feels warm to the touch. The disease usually begins in the wrists, hands or feet, and can spread to other joints and other parts of the body.
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but treatment to relieve symptoms is effective.
What causes it?
It is not known why rheumatoid arthritis occurs. People of any age can develop it, but it is more common in women between the ages of 30 and 50 years old. Certain genes can trigger the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
The inflammation affects:
- The thin synovial membrane that covers the joint capsule.
- The tendon sheaths (tubes in which the tendons move).
- The bags (bags of fluid that allow the muscles and tendons to move smoothly over each other).
- Joints and swollen tissues become stiff, painful and swollen.
How will it affect me?
Rheumatoid arthritis affects everyone differently and is therefore difficult to diagnose. There may be times when your disease is active and other times inactive.
- Pain, loss of strength and movement in inflamed joints .
- General malaise and fatigue.
- Rigidity which can be bad, especially first thing in the morning or after sitting for a long time.
How is it treated?
There are different types of medications for this type of arthritis. Some are used to relieve pain, some for inflammation, others are used to try to slow down the course of the disease. A rheumatologist will periodically monitor the effects of medications on your body.
The treatments include:
Antirheumatic disease modifying drugs (DMARDs), given shortly after diagnosis to delay the disease process. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be given to cope with inflammation and pain. Steroids are used to rapidly reduce severe inflammation.
Joint replacement surgery will only be considered if the joint is very painful or if there is a risk that it will lose the overall function.