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Everything You Need To Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis

Jan 26, 2008
Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of chronic arthritis that occurs generally in the joints including the wrists, hands or knees on both sides of the body. It is the occurrence in both sides of the body that helps distinguish rheumatoid from other types of arthritis, in which the joint inflammation is random.

Symptoms

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include swelling and pain in the joints, chronic fatigue and stiffness that is more pronounced in the morning or after sitting for extended periods of time.

Different people get affected differently. Most commonly, rheumatoid develops gradually over a period of several years but in others joint symptoms may progress rapidly. Some people enter a period of remission after having rheumatoid arthritis for a limited period of time.

Causes

Though the exact cause of rheumatoid is yet to be determined, it is thought to be brought on by a combination of hormonal, genetic and environmental factors. Rheumatoid arthritis is believed to be caused when an unknown entity triggers off the immune system causing it to attack the joints and sometimes the organs. Some people have an inherited factor that increases their odds of developing rheumatoid arthritis but the precise role that genetics plays has not yet been ascertained.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is based on the positive results of a rheumatoid factor blood test as well as the combination of factors, including:
The precise location and symmetry of painful joints, particularly the hand joints
Stiffness in the joints in the morning
Occurrence of rheumatoid nodules under the skin
X-ray tests results suggest the presence of rheumatoid arthritis

Treatment

There are several different treatment methods for rheumatoid arthritis, including rest, medications, physiotherapy exercises and sometimes surgery to correct the damage to the joint. The treatment that is recommended depends upon the individual's age, overall health, severity of the arthritis and medical history.

Medications - Narcotic pain relievers, anti-inflammatory painkiller drugs, corticosteroids or topical skin relievers may be recommended for relief from the joint pain, swelling and stiffness that accompany rheumatoid arthritis.

Rest and Exercise - During worsening of the joint inflammation, also called flare-ups, it is best to rest the inflamed joints either by use of joint splints or by using a cane. Monitored exercise programs undertaken when joint inflammation is reduced helps maintain joint mobility and flexibility and strengthens the surrounding muscles.

Surgery may be necessary to help restore function to a joint when the damage due to the arthritis has become very severe.
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