What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the joints. This creates inflammation of the synovium, the tissue that lines the joints lubricating the joints for smooth movement.
The inflamed synovium thickens, swells and causes pain. Left unchecked, it damages the bones and cartilage that line the bones, causing the joints to become loose, and unstable. The result is painful, limited mobility. Joint damage is not reversible. This is why Ortho Illinois rheumatologists urge patients to seek early diagnosis and treatment to control RA and prevent permanent damage.
Who is at risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
RA is the most common form of autoimmune arthritis. It is a chronic disease that affects about 1.3 million Americans, 75% of which are women. Symptoms typically begin between 30 and 50, but it can start at any time.
We don’t yet know the cause, but the evidence suggests a combination of genes, hormones, and environmental factors are responsible for an abnormal immune response.
What are the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
- Painful, tender, swollen and stiff joints that last for six weeks or longer.
- Morning stiffness that lasts for 30 minutes or longer is a cardinal symptom.
- The same joints on both sides are affected.
- More than one joint is affected.
- The small joints especially the wrists joints and in the hands and feet are typically affected.
Additional symptoms include:
- loss of appetite, and
- a low grade fever
Symptoms will wane and flare up. A flare up can last from days to months. The inflammation can affect other areas of the body including the eyes, mouth, skin, lungs, blood vessels and blood.
When your primary care doctor suspects RA based on symptoms, they will refer to a Rheumatologist. There are four rheumatologists at Ortho Illinois’ offices at our Rockford • Riverside Clinic.
During your consultation, your Ortho Illinois rheumatologist will ask about your medical history and symptoms. You will receive a complete physical exam and blood tests, including a test for the Rheumatoid factor (RF) which is found in up to 80% of people with RA. Imaging tests may be ordered to identify joint damage.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis treated?
Early, aggressive treatment will be recommended to stop or reduce inflammation, prevent joint and organ damage, relieve symptoms and improve function. The primary goal is to achieve remission which is defined as NO signs of active inflammation. Reducing or stopping active disease requires tight control to prevent joint damage.
Joint replacement surgery for RA is rare but may be an important option in patients with permanent joint damage that impairs daily activities, mobility and independence.
Additionally, your Orthro Illinois Rheumatologist will instruct you on methods to take proactively to self-manage your condition to maintain a good quality of life.
RA is one of the most disabling diseases. The studies are clear that people who receive early treatment feel better faster and are more able to lead an active life. At Ortho Illinois our rheumatologists have many new treatments that can help you live the life you love. Contact us to schedule a consultation today at (815) 398-9491.