What is RA?
● Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that develops when the immune system attacks the body. RA affects the joints, skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood vessels, kidneys, nerves, and salivary glands.
● The attack on the joints affects the synovium that lines and lubricates the joints.
● The cartilage and bones are destroyed over time, and the tendons become weaker causing the joints to become deformed.
● The damage to the bones can increase the risk of osteoporosis; consequently, people living with RA become prone to fractures.
● RA is not reversible.
Early symptoms of RA will affect the smaller joints of the hands and feet.
● Tender, warm, swollen joints
● Joint stiffness
● Occasional fatigue
● Chronic dry eyes and mouth (Sjogren’s syndrome)
● Increased infections
● Carpal tunnel syndrome (inflammation of the wrists)
● Hardening of the arteries and blood vessels
● Pericarditis (inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart)
● Lung disease
● Rheumatoid nodules (spongy or firm bumps that form on the joints, typically the fingers)
Note: As the disease progresses, the wrists, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders may be affected.
Signs and symptoms may vary, pain may come and go, and patients may experience flare-ups and remission. Severe RA can be debilitating.
● If you suspect that you have RA, please consult with your primary care physician or general practitioner as soon as possible for diagnostic testing, treatment, and management.
● A referral to a rheumatologist is best to help manage ongoing treatment of inflammation. The treatment goal is to slow down the progression of the disease.
● Medications typically prescribed will include NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD).
● Referral to an orthopedic surgeon, dermatologist, ophthalmologist, pulmonologist, cardiologist, neurologist, and dentist may be necessary if RA affects the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood vessels, kidneys, nerves, and salivary glands.
Chatuphot. (2019). Hands of Rheumatoid Arthritis patient Isolated on White Background. [Image]. https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/hands-rheumatoid-arthritis-patient-isolated-on-106371128
Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network. (2019). Living Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Retrieved from https://www.rheumatoidarthritis.org/