Rheumatoid Arthritis

What it is: Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the body’s joints causing inflammation and swelling. It can also affect other organs, such as skin, kidneys, heart, lungs and eyes. It can cause deformity, loss of mobility and it has been linked to heart disease. There is no cure but there are ways to control the symptoms and prevent joint damage.

Types of Arthritis: There are several different types of arthritis: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, and Inflammatory Arthritis– this is just to name a few. There are over a hundred different types of arthritis.

Symptoms: Early symptoms include sudden swelling of the joints ( hands, knees, feet and ankles – can also include shoulders and hips), morning stiffness, fever, fatigue and rashes. These symptoms can be mistaken for the flu. If you experience these symptoms for longer than a week, see your family physician. Your doctor will examine you and recommend tests to rule out early RA or any other type of inflammatory arthritis. The sooner they diagnose arthritis, the sooner they can recommend treatment to reduce joint damage and manage symptoms.

How it is treated: There are several medications to control arthritis:

NSAIDs : non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

DMARDs : disease  modifying anti-rheumatic drug

BIOLOGICS: genetically engineered medicines that inhibit the immune system’s production of certain substances.

Talk to your specialist about your options. Each person will have a different response to treatment. Some medications take longer to work than others. Try not to get discouraged if medications prescribed don’t work immediately – it takes time to find the right combination of medications for you. Diet and exercise also play an important role for maintaining a productive lifestyle.

Stats: Arthritis is not a disease solely for the elderly. Any person at any age can develop arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 30-50. It is more common in women. Arthritis affects thousands of people a year. It’s important to seek early treatment to get the inflammation under control and prevent damage. Research is being done to discover the cause and, one day, find a cure.

For more information on arthritis, please refer to Rheum Info and The Arthritis Research Centre of Canada.

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