What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis. It is caused when the immune system (the body’s defense system) is not working properly. RA causes pain and swelling in the wrist and small joints of the hand and feet.
Who is impacted?
- Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 1.3 million Americans. About 75% of RA patients are women. In fact, 1 – 3% of women may get rheumatoid arthritis in their lifetime. The disease most often begins between the ages of 30 and 50. However, RA can start at any age.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosed?
- RA is diagnosed by examining blood test results, examining the joints and organs, and reviewing X-ray or ultrasound images. RA is not simply diagnosed by one single test. Blood tests are run to look for antibodies in the blood that can been seen in RA.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis treated?
- Therapy for RA has improved greatly in the past 30 years. Current treatments give most patients good or excellent relief of symptoms and let them keep functioning at, or near, normal levels. With the right medications, many patients can have no signs of active disease. When the symptoms are completely controlled, the disease is in “remission”.
- There is no cure for RA. The goal of treatment is to improve your joint pain and swelling and to improve your ability to perform day-to-day activities. Starting medication as soon as possible helps prevent your joints from having lasting or possibly permanent damage. No single treatment works for all patients. Many people with RA must change their treatment at least once during their lifetime.
Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis
- It is important to be physically active most of the time, but to sometimes scale back activities when the disease flares up. In general, rest is helpful when a joint is inflamed or when you feel tired. At these times, gentle range-of-motion exercises may be beneficial, such as stretching. This will keep the joint flexible.