How to Deal with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Published July 26, 2013 by by : teacherdahl

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What is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?

RA is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the lining of the joints. The body tissue is mistakenly attacked by its own immune system. RA may also affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, or nerves. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disorder, meaning that although there may be occasional symptom-free periods, the disease can worsen over time and may never go away. Early, aggressive treatment is key to slowing or stopping its progression.

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Symptoms

Joint inflammation from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)  comes with pain, warmth, and swelling. The inflammation is typically symmetrical, occurring on both sides of the body at the same time (such as the wrists, knees, or hands). Other symptoms of RA include joint stiffness, particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity; ongoing fatigue, and low-grade fever. Symptoms typically develop gradually over years, but can come on rapidly for some people.

Causes

Immune cells normally protect the body from foreign invaders. What causes them to target healthy joints and tissue is unknown. Researchers believe some combination of genetics and environmental factors may play a role. There may be a genetic tendency in some people who, if they develop an infection with a particular bacterium or virus, go on to develop the condition. But to date, no specific infection has been identified.

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RA’s Toll on the Joints

Inflammation of the lining of the joints can destroy cartilage and bone, causing deformity of the joints. As the condition progresses, joints can develop considerable pain and loss of function.

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Diagnosing RA: Blood Tests

If RA is suspected, your doctor may order blood tests to check for markers of inflammation in the body. Other common tests are for rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP), which is present in most people with RA.

Treatment: 
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RA Medications

Medications used to treat RA include disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) which include biologics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, and pain relievers. DMARDs slow progression of disease and are usually used with NSAIDs and steroids in treatment.

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