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What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Aug 17, 2007
Rheumatoid arthritis is disease that affects the joints. It causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. If one knee or hand has rheumatoid arthritis, usually the other does too. This disease often occurs in more than one joint and can affect any joint in the body. People with this disease may feel sick and tired, and they sometimes get fevers.
Some people have this disease for only a few months, or a year or two. Then it goes away without causing damage. Other people have times when the symptoms get worse (flares), and times when they get better (remissions). Others have a severe form of the disease that can last for many years or a lifetime. This form of the disease can cause serious joint damage.

Who Gets Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Anyone can get this disease, though it occurs more often in women. Rheumatoid arthritis often starts in middle age and is most common in older people. But children and young adults can also get it.

What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Doctors don't know the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis. They know that with this arthritis, a person's immune system attacks his or her own body tissues. Researchers are learning many things about why and how this happens. Things that may cause rheumatoid arthritis are:
Genes (passed from parent to child)
Environment
Hormones.

How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed?
People can go to a family doctor or rheumatologist to be diagnosed. A rheumatologist is a doctor who helps people with problems in the joints, bones, and muscles. Rheumatoid arthritis can be hard to diagnose because:
There is no single test for the disease
The symptoms can be the same as other kinds of joint disease
The full symptoms can take time to develop.
To diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, doctors use medical history, physical exam, x rays, and lab tests.

How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated?
Doctors have many ways to treat this disease. The goals of treatment are to:
Take away pain
Reduce swelling
Slow down or stop joint damage
Help people feel better
Help people stay active.
Treatment can include patient education, self-management programs, and support groups that help people learn about:
Treatments
How to exercise and relax
How to talk with their doctor
Problem solving.
These programs help people:
Learn about the disease
Reduce pain
Cope with physical issues and emotions
Feel more control over the disease
Build confidence
Lead full and active lives.
Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis may involve:
Lifestyle changes
Medicine
Surgery
Regular doctor visits
Alternative therapies.

Lifestyle Changes
Here are some ways to take care of yourself:
Keep a good balance between rest and exercise
Take care of your joints
Lower your stress
Eat a healthy diet.

Medicine
Most people with rheumatoid arthritis take medicine. Drugs can be used for pain relief, to reduce swelling, and to stop the disease from getting worse. What a doctor prescribes depends on:
The person's general health
How serious the rheumatoid arthritis is
How serious the rheumatoid arthritis may become
How long the person will take the drug
How well the drug works
Possible side effects.

Surgery
There are many kinds of surgery for people with severe joint damage. Surgery is used to:
Reduce pain
Help a joint work better
Help people be able to do daily activities.
Surgery is not for everyone. Talk about the option with your doctor.

Regular Doctor Visits
Regular medical care is important so doctors can:
See if the disease gets worse
See if drugs are helping
Look for drug side effects
Change treatment when needed.
Your care may include blood, urine, and other lab tests and x rays.

Alternative Therapies
Special diets, vitamins, and other alternative therapies are sometimes suggested to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Some therapies help people reduce stress. Many of these treatments are not harmful, but they may not be well tested or have any real benefits.
People should talk with their doctor before starting an alternative therapy. If the doctor feels the therapy might help and isn't harmful, it can become part of regular care.
About the Author
Emmanuel Aubrey The Information Generator
My website is www.emmanuelaubrey.com if you want more information on health topics visit my website. my email: emmanuel@emmanuelaubrey.com
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