A common question I get is, “Do I have Rheumatoid Arthritis?” There is no simple answer to this question. Moving forward we will refer to this as “RA” which is short for Rheumatoid Arthritis. RA is a very complex problem and must be diagnosed with medical testing. We can look at common symptoms before we do all the testing to help point us in the right direction. RA causes inflammation of the lining of the joints, especially in the hands and fingers, so we can start there. There are other conditions which may cause this as well so we must move to other tests to confirm whether you have RA or something else.
Here are some of the common early symptoms of RA
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Slight fever. Inflammation associated with RA may cause people to feel unwell and feverish.
- Weight loss.
- Joint tenderness.
- Joint pain.
- Joint swelling.
- Joint redness.
More on Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
RA causes inflammation of the lining of the joints, especially in the hands and fingers. … Because RA is a progressive disease, symptoms typically get worse. If left untreated, it can cause real damage to the joints and some serious complications in the major organs.
RA is an autoimmune condition, which means it’s caused by the immune system attacking healthy body tissue. However, it’s not yet known what triggers this. Your immune system normally makes antibodies that attack bacteria and viruses, helping to fight infection. In RA, the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue, including joints. In some severe cases, it attacks internal organs. Rheumatoid arthritis affects joint linings, causing painful swelling. Over long periods of time, the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis can cause bone erosion and joint deformity.
“In order to diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis with certainty we do medical testing.”Dr. Kenneth Lawlor
Tests commonly used to diagnose RA include:
- Rheumatoid factor.
- Anti-Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide.
- C-Reactive Protein (CRP).
- Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR).
- Antinuclear Antibody (ANA).
- Imaging can also confirm the presence of RA
Once you are confirmed to have RA, it is important for you to understand there are treatments but no cure. physiotherapy and medication can help slow the disease’s progression and help you to live a normal life.
Living with RA
Many people can live a healthy, active life with RA. It is difficult to predict the exact impact that RA will have on a person’s life or a persons life expectancy because the course of the disease differs significantly between people. In general, it is possible for RA to reduce life expectancy by around 10 to 15 years.
Here are some of the common medications for RA
- NSAIDs. -Most people with RA are advised to take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug to decrease pain and inflammation.
- Steroids (Corticosteroids).
- Methotrexate and Other Traditional DMARDs.
- Biologics for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Janus Kinase (JAK) Inhibitors.
A doctor can explain these treatments in more detail and the pros and cons of each. With treatment you can have a better life and in most cases live a healthy and active lifestyle. If you are experiencing potential symptoms of RA and you live near our office we would love to see if we could possibly help you with your RA symptoms.