Rheumatoid Arthritis: What You Need to Know

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

If you have pain or stiffness upon waking, or nagging, constant joint pain that you’ve ignored, you need to read this.

Osteoarthritis is a common cause of pain in advanced years. After decades of use, cartilage, bone and ligaments simply “wear out.” By contrast, Rheumatoid Arthritis is an inflammatory, autoimmune disease, and is much different. RA, as it is often abbreviated, is found in women three times more often than in men and affects over 1 million Americans.

There are over 100 forms of arthritic diseases that are diagnosed by inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues. These diseases may begin at any age, but typically begin in the decades between age 40 and 70. In these ways, rheumatoid arthritis is very similar.

How is RA different?

RA is a chronic (long-term) disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling and limited motion and function of many joints. While RA can affect any joint, the small joints in the hands and feet are the most likely sites. Inflammation may occasionally affect organs as well – the eyes or the lungs, for example.

Rheumatoid Arthritis affects up to 3 percent of American women. It occurs in all races and ethnic groups. Older teenagers and young adults are sometimes diagnosed with the disease. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (a condition related to RA) is a rare condition found in children and younger teenagers. Knowledge of these diseases continues to expand through research efforts.

What is RA like?

Severity of the disease ranges from mild and moderate to severe. The more moderate cases have peaks and valleys of symptoms; the pain caused by the disease “flares up” but isn’t constant. The most severe forms of the disease have fewer to almost no periods of remission. Left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can linger for years and lead to serious joint damage and disability.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Tender, warm, swollen joints
  • Symmetrical pattern of affected joints
  • Joint inflammation often affecting the wrist and finger joints closest to the hand
  • Joint inflammation sometimes affecting other joints – including the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles and feet
  • Fatigue, occasional fevers, a loss of energy
  • Pain and stiffness lasting for more than 30 minutes in the morning or after a long rest
  • Symptoms that last for many years
  • Variability of symptoms among people with the disease

While RA is a disease of the joints, its effects are not solely physical. Rheumatoid arthritis affects all aspects of a person’s life. It can interfere with the joys and responsibilities of family life and its symptoms affect nearly all decisions. Many people with RA also experience issues related to depression, feelings of helplessness and low self-esteem.

How can I get help?

Specialists at Amarillo Diagnostic Clinic are very familiar with rheumatoid arthritis and its symptoms. Rheumatologists at ADC understand the many forms of arthritis and related diseases like lupus and gout.

Our primary goal is to limit any arthritic damage, especially in rheumatoid arthritis.  Services at ADC include bone density testing, joint injections and an IV infusion clinic for new medications.  Our rheumatologists are armed with the latest information regarding your disease and treatment options to improve your quality of life. Contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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