What are the basics of rheumatoid arthritis?
What are the basics of rheumatoid arthritis? What is the cause and is there a cure?
Is a doctor's diagnosis needed? Who gets rheumatoid arthritis?
Anyone can get rheumatoid arthritis at any age. Over 300,000 children have
rheumatoid arthritis. The cause is not yet known though many attribute their onset
to a stressful event. There seems to be a genetic predisposition, but not all people
with a genetic predisposition develop the disease.
No cure exists for rheumatoid arthritis though treatments have improved greatly
in recent years. Early diagnosis is important because early treatment can prevent
permanent joint damage requiring surgery to repair.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease of the joints which is characterized by
flare-ups followed by periods of remission. Rheumatoid arthritis, unlike other forms
of arthritis, also affects not only joints but other organs as well. Regular visits
to the doctor for monitoring of the disease is important for early detection of
any effects it may be having on other organs-especially the eyes.
Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by inflammation of the joints usually in a
symmetrical pattern on the body. If not treated, the inflammation causes permanent
damage to the joints. This inflammation also tends to make patients with rheumatoid
arthritis feel sick or unhealthy which is not generally a characteristic of other
forms of arthritis such as osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis does not manifest in the same way in every patient. Some patients
experience mild joint pain which comes and goes over a period of months slowly increasing
into the more severe forms of rheumatoid arthritis. Other patients progress for
mild joint pain to severe inflammation and nodules within only a few months' time.
Therefore, the earlier a patient seeks diagnosis and treatment, the better the long-term
Early treatment usually consists of analgesics (like acetaminophen) NSAIDS (non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs), DMARDS (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) and corticosteroids.
Later treatment adds biologic response modifiers.
The best results are obtained from combination drug therapy. Work with a doctor
to determine what works best.
Diet, exercise, nutritional supplements and the proper medications can help people
control the rheumatoid arthritis pain and prevent further damage to the joints and
organs. With the proper care the prognosis for rheumatoid arthritis can be good.