Rheumatoid Arthritis causes swelling, stiffness and pain of the joints of the hands, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles,
There is a lining tissue inside joints called synovium. The synovium produces lubricating fluid for the joints. In Rheumatoid Arthritis, the synovium or lining tissue becomes thickened with inflammatory cells.
This excess inflammatory tissue causes symptoms of pain swelling, stiffness, redness restricted range of motion and joint damage.
The goal of treatment is to eliminate inflammation thereby stopping the pain, stiffness and swelling. We must also take steps to prevent deformity.
Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect areas of the body other than the joints. These include the development of Rheumatoid Nodules, Sjogren’s Syndrome (dry eyes and mouth) Peripheral Neuropathy (nerve damage in the lower legs,) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (nerve entrapment at the wrist) and Rheumatoid Lung Disease.
Less than 1% of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis become crippled. Believe it or not, 1 in 100 people have this kind of arthritis.
As with most types of arthritis, the cause is unknown. There is speculation that it is caused by a virus. We know that we inherit a susceptibility to this disease. Often there is more than one family member with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Just because one family member has severe disease, it does not follow that other affected family members will have severe disease.
The treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis consists of resting and avoiding trauma to involved joints; maintaining joint range of motion, medication to control inflammation and prevent worsening of the disease and surgery.
Initially it is important for the physician to exclude other types of arthritis, which may look like Rheumatoid Arthritis (such as Lyme Disease, Parvovirus, Gout, and Lupus).
After Rheumatoid Arthritis is diagnosed, there should be instruction in the principles of joint protection and appropriate exercise.
Medications fall into classes as follows:
- Anti-inflammatories (Naprosyn, Relafen, Mobic, Voltaren, Daypro, Lodine, etc.), N
- Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (Methotrexate, Sulfasalazine, Plaquenil, Cyclosporine, Imuran, Gold
- Biologics such as Enbrel, Remicade, Humira, Orencia, Cimzia, Simponi, Actemra, Rituxan and a series of medications current in research.
We now anticipate remission for patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
New medications are continually being developed, we are actively involved in Research at the Arthritis Center and can often provide you with the most up to date treatment. Visit our Research page for more information.