Rheumatoid arthritis is a very painful form of arthritis that has no known cure at this time. It occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks the joints, causing pain and inflammation. In some cases, the immune system causes damage to organs as well. Experts do not know why the immune system malfunctions in this manner and they don’t know how to stop the disease completely. However, great strides have been made in recent years to control the progression of the disease and effectively manage painful symptoms.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis often begin in the smaller joints and then progress to the larger ones. Common symptoms include joint pain and swelling, stiffness after lying down or sitting and puffy, red hands. Other symptoms might include extreme fatigue, low grade fever or weight loss. If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible for a definitive diagnosis. The sooner rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed and treatment begins, the more effective the treatment options can be.
Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis
A diagnosis of this disease can be made through a number of different tests. The first is a blood test used to detect levels of erythrocyte sedimentation rate, which indicates inflammation in the body. Another blood test used is one that looks for specific antibodies in the bloodstream that may mean the person has the disease. However, some people with rheumatoid arthritis do not have these antibodies, so the test is not conclusive. If rheumatoid arthritis is suspected, the doctor may also take a sample of joint fluid. X-rays may also be ordered to determine how much damage has been done to the joints.
Treatment Options For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Once a diagnosis is made, treatment can begin. Medications are commonly prescribed to help the patient manage the pain and slow the progression of the disease. Many new medications for rheumatoid arthritis have come on the market in recent years, and some have proven quite effective in helping patients achieve a higher quality of life. However, if joint damage becomes too severe, surgery may also be recommended to allow the patient to use a particular joint once again.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful disease that affects many children and adults. Unfortunately, there is still no known cure for this disease, so patients must learn to live with it for the rest of their lives. The good news is that advances in treatment for this disease has allowed many rheumatoid arthritis sufferers to enjoy a higher quality of life with less pain.