Overview and Treatment Options
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease
that invades the lining of the joints causing painful stiffness and swelling.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is different from Osteoarthritis.
This form of arthritis occurs when the immune system
perceives the body’s tissue as a threat. Osteoarthritis occurs from age and extensive use of
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
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
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.
Patients 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
disease, the body will react to the internal attack with a fever,
fatigue, and possibly weight loss.
chronic inflammatory diseases, there will be periods of flare-ups alternating with periods of reduced
Rheumatoid arthritis causes
the immune system to breakdown the synovial lining of the
Continued attacks on
the synovium cause thickening and ultimately the destruction of cartilage and the joint’s
arise when the ligaments and tendons, which stabilize the joint, become weak and
Eventually, the joint
will become misaligned causing decreased mobility, dexterity, and the inability to perform routine
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
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.