Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, multi system, and inflammatory autoimmune disorder that will bring on an attack to the joints.  It is a very crippling and painful condition that can lead to loss of mobility to the pain and joint devastation.  Rheumatoid arthritis is systemic and will also affect different tissues through the body, skin, blood vessels, heart, lungs and muscles.  Rheumatoid arthritis will affect anyone between the ages of 20 and 40 and can start anytime.  A family history is important to the risk.  It is three times more common in women than in men and up to four times more common in smokers than non-smokers.


The symptoms will separate rheumatoid arthritis from other types of arthritis because of the inflammation and soft tissue swelling of many joints at the same time.  This is known as polyarthritis.  The joints are usually affected asymmetrically and then will go on to the symmetrical part as the disease goes on. It is not like the other forms of arthritis like osteoarthrits because the pain will move with the use of the joints that are affected.


As the disease goes on, the inflammatory activity will lead to the erosion and destruction of the joints that will impair their range of movement and lead to some deformity.  The fingers and the bones will deviate to the outside and towards the small finger and take on unnatural shapes.  Having deformities in patients that are dealing with rheumatoid arthritis will include the Boutonnière deformity, the swan neck deformity, and the “Z-thumb” deformity.


Because rheumatoid arthritis is a multisystem disease, other disease and conditions may form as a result of it.  Many of the people that have rheumatoid arthritis will also have anemia.  Anemia is a problem of the red blood cells because there are not enough of them and or the hemoglobin and this will cause the lower ability of oxygen to be taken to the tissues.  It is a chronic disease and many will suffer from it and splenomegaly or the enlarging of the spleen.  Felty’s syndrome and Sjogren’s syndrome which is an autoimmune disorder in which the cells attack and ruin the exocrine glands and produce salvia and tears.  Dermological will affect nodules on exterior surfaces.  Fibrosis may occur in the lungs at any time or as a result of different treatments.


There are several things for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. Having stiffness in the morning that goes on for longer than one hour is an example as is the arthritis and soft tissue swelling of more than three out of 14 joints or in the joint groups.  Arthritis of hand joints like symmetric arthritis, subcutaneous nodules in specific places, a rheumatoid factor at a level above the 95th place and radiological changes that are suggested of joint erosion and are part of the criteria.  There are at least four of these things hat have to be met in order to establish a diagnoses.


The treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are going to be placed in disease modifying antirheumatic drugs or (DMARDS), anti inflammatory agents and analgesics.  DMARDS is known to start durable remissions and delay the disease process, prevent bone and joint damage as well.  Anti inflammatory agents and analgesics can help to improve pain and stiffness but do not stop any damage or slow down the disease in any way.

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