Rheumatoid Arthritis

By: Elisa Romero

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term disease that leads to inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. It can also affect other organs

Signs and Symptoms:

  • joint pain
  • swelling and stiffness
  • fatigue and muscle pain
  • Redness and warmth
  • Complications from advanced RA include joint damage leading to deformity and limited range of motion.

Management:

A number of RA remedies and approaches can help with these goals, including physical and occupational therapy, exercise, and medications

Diagnosis:

Doctors diagnose rheumatoid arthritis based on factors that are strongly associated with the disease. The American College of Rheumatology uses this list of criteria:
  • Morning stiffness in and around the joints for at least one hour.
  • Swelling or fluid around three or more joints simultaneously.
  • At least one swollen area in the wrist, hand, or finger joints.
  • Arthritis involving the same joint on both sides of the body (symmetric arthritis).
  • Rheumatoid Nodules, which are firm lumps in the skin of people with rheumatoid arthritis. These nodules are usually in pressure points of the body, most commonly the elbows.
  • Abnormal amounts of rheumatoid factor in the blood.
  • X-ray changes in the hands and wrists typical of rheumatoid arthritis, with destruction of bone around the involved joints. However, these changes are typical of later-stage disease.

Prognosis:

The prognosis for rheumatoid arthritis is based on how advanced the disease was when the patient was first diagnosed. Another factor considered is the age of the patient when first diagnosed or at disease-onset (when the disease began). Lastly, but probably most important is how active the disease is currently. Is rheumatoid arthritis in a flare, a remission, or is it managed well with treatment?

Patogenesis:

The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but it is thought to be due to a combination of genetic, environmental and hormonal factors.

Epidemiology:

Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 1% of the U.S. population. It is three times more common in women than in men. It usually occurs in people 20 to 50 years old, however, young children and the elderly also can develop rheumatoid arthritis
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