More than two million individuals in the United States suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. This is a type of arthritis that is actually caused by an autoimmune disorder, which is a condition where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing the characteristic inflammation, swelling and pain of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis attacks the synovial membrane of the bone, which is the inner lining of the joints, and this causes severe inflammation. This inflammation causes damage to the cartilage and joints and can eventually damage the soft tissues around the joints as well. Rheumatoid arthritis can eventually attack other soft tissues and organs in the body.
One of the big differences between rheumatoid arthritis and other types of arthritis is the fact that rheumatoid arthritis progresses in flare-ups and remissions. Those with rheumatoid arthritis will experience periods of painful days and then will experience a significant decrease or disappearance of their painful symptoms. Other forms or arthritis will generally cause pain consistently and every day..
Early signs of rheumatoid arthritis include swelling, localized heat, and pain in the affected joints. Accompanying symptoms may include weakness, low-grade fever, depression, chronic fatigue, and loss of appetite. Once rheumatoid arthritis is suspected, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible because, if left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can become debilitating and can reduce quality of life.
If suspected, your physician will perform a physical examination and may recommend further diagnostic testing. Once diagnosed, there are a variety of treatments for the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, but at this time there is no cure. There are medications available that are designed to treat the symptoms exclusive to rheumatoid arthritis. If your rheumatoid arthritis has already progressed to deterioration of the joint, your orthopedic surgeon at Arizona Bone and Joint may recommend surgery to repair or replace the joint.
It is important to seek treatment for rheumatoid arthritis as soon as symptoms present and you think they may be related to rheumatoid arthritis.