Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system – which normally protects its health by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses – attacks the joints and body systems. This attack causes inflammation and thickening inside the joints of the hands, wrists, elbows, feet, ankles and knees most often. Unlike Osteoarthritis the joints are usually affected symmetrically. Over time, there is loss of cartilage, and the joint spacing between bones can become smaller. Joints can become loose, unstable, painful and lose their mobility.
Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Joint pain, tenderness, swelling or stiffness for six weeks or longer
- Morning stiffness for 30 minutes or longer
- More than one joint is affected
- Small joints (wrists, certain joints of the hands and feet) are affected
- The same joints on both sides of the body are affected
Along with pain, many people experience fatigue, loss of appetite and a low-grade fever. Some systemic symptoms of RA can be:
- Dryness, pain, redness, sensitivity to light and impaired vision
- Dryness and gum irritation or infection
- Rheumatoid nodules – small lumps under the skin over bony areas
- Inflammation and scarring that can lead to shortness of breath
- Inflammation of blood vessels that can lead to damage in the nerves, skin and other organs
- Anemia, a lower than normal number of red blood cells
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis but recent discoveries indicate that remission of symptoms is more likely when treatment begins early. There are many medications that can be recommended by a Rheumatologist.
Your doctor may send you to a physical or occupational therapist who can teach you exercises to help keep your joints flexible. The therapist may also suggest new ways to do daily tasks, which will be easier on your joints. For example, if your fingers are sore, you may want to pick up an object using your forearms. Assistive devices can make it easier to avoid stressing your painful joints. For instance, and electric can opener can help protect your hands and wrists. Certain tools, such as buttonhooks, can make it easier to get dressed. Many people live a long, fulfilling life after a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.
If you are experiencing any kind of joint pain or have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, contact us for a free consultation. To request an appointment, click here, or call directly to one of our three locations during regular business hours:
Cool Springs: 615-224-9810
Spring Hill: 931-489-2022