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Rheumatoid arthritis

What Is Rheumatoid Arthrits?

Your pain could be due to rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory, autoimmune disease that affects multiple joints. Unlike osteoarthritis, which occurs when cartilage that cushions the end of a joint wears away over time, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the lining surrounding a joint, called the synovium.

RA typically causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling in symmetrical joints throughout the body. For example, both your right and left hand are affected, rather than just one. The pain usually begins gradually and begins to persist over a number of weeks or months, but some patients experience pain more suddenly.

Rheumatoid arthritis often first affects the small joints in your fingers and toes; it can also affect your wrists, elbows, ankles, knees, hips, shoulder, and neck.

Common RA Symptoms

  • Joints that feel tender, warm, or swollen for six weeks or more
  • Multiple joints are affected
  • Joint pain that is symmetrical
  • Joint stiffness, especially first thing in the morning that lasts for an hour or more
  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade fever
  • Loss of appetite

What To Do Next

Rheumatoid arthritis is progressive, which means it will get worse if you don’t treat it. Over time, it can cause permanent damage to your joints and limit your mobility. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for RA that can slow down the disease progression or even stop it completely. These include medications such as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics, which act on the immune system to reduce inflammation help improve pain, stiffness, function, and quality of life.

It is very important to see a health care provider and let them know you think you could be at risk of having RA. Your primary care doctor, such as an internist or family medicine doctor, is a good place to start. They will likely refer you to an arthritis specialist called a rheumatologist for a thorough evaluation.

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