Overview and Treatment Options for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that invades the lining of the joints causing painful stiffness and swelling.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is different from Osteoarthritis.

ArthritisThis form of arthritis occurs when the immune system perceives the body’s tissue as a threat. Osteoarthritis occurs from age and extensive use of joints.

If left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to deterioration of the bone and distortion of the joints. Swelling of the joints and inflammation.

There is no known etiology for rheumatoid arthritis; however, genetic factors may increase the risk of developing it.

Although, a person cannot directly inherit this disease, a family history creates a predisposition to developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Women and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Women between the ages of 40 and 60 years old are diagnosed more often than men.

Smoking is linked to an increased risk, while quitting reduces the chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis.



First Symptoms Rheumatoid Arthritis

Painful and debilitating swelling of the joints is the primary indicator of rheumatoid arthritis. Joints will become sensitive to touch and will visually appear red and swollen.

  • In early stages of this disease, the small joints, hands, feet, wrists, and ankles are affected.  

  • As it progresses, inflammation can occur in the knees, shoulders, elbows, hips, neck and jaw.  

RheumatoidPatients will often report symmetrical symptoms, for example, both wrists are symptomatic at the same time.

Physical examination will reveal the development of rheumatoid nodules, hard bumps of tissue beneath the skin.

Because this is an autoimmune disease, the body will react to the internal attack with a fever, fatigue, and possibly weight loss.

Characteristic of chronic inflammatory diseases, there will be periods of flare-ups alternating with periods of reduced symptoms.


Rheumatoid arthritis causes the immune system to breakdown the synovial lining of the joints.

Continued attacks on the synovium cause thickening and ultimately the destruction of cartilage and the joint’s bone.Immune System

Further complications arise when the ligaments and tendons, which stabilize the joint, become weak and distorted.

Eventually, the joint will become misaligned causing decreased mobility, dexterity, and the inability to perform routine tasks.




Surgical Treatment

Advanced cases of rheumatoid arthritis may require surgical repair if medications and therapy have not slowed or stopped the disease’s progression. Surgery will also repair damaged or deformed joints that have become unusable.

Tendon repair can be performed to correct the loose or torn tendons around the joint. Synovectomy is the removal of inflamed synovium from the joint.

Arthroplasty is the surgical replacement of the complete joint with a prosthesis constructed from metal and plastic. Arthrodesis surgically fuses a joint to make it more stable.

This is performed when total joint replacement is not an option.