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Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than just your joints. It is an autoimmune disease occurring when your immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium , the lining of the membranes that surround your joints. The resulting inflammation causes the synovium to thicken, eventually destroying the cartilage and bone within the joint. The tendons and ligaments holding the joint together also weaken and stretch. Gradually, the joint loses its shape and alignment.
It is unknown exactly what starts the process, although a genetic component appears likely. Newly developed medications have greatly improved treatment options. However, severe rheumatoid arthritis can still cause physical disabilities.
Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:
Early rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect your smaller joints first — particularly the joints of the fingers and toes. As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders. In most cases, symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of your body.
Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect many non joint structures. This is the case in about 40 per cent of sufferers. These include:
Rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms can vary in severity and may come and go. Periods of increased disease activity, called flare ups, alternate with periods of relative remission — when the swelling and pain fade or disappear.
People with rheumatoid arthritis often have an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR, or sed rate) or C-reactive protein (CRP), which may indicate the presence of an inflammatory process in the body. Other common blood tests look for rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies. Rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages because the early signs and symptoms mimic those of many other diseases. There is no one blood test or physical finding alone that confirms diagnosis.
Your doctor may recommend X-rays to help track the progression of rheumatoid arthritis in your joints over time. MRI and ultrasound tests can help your doctor judge the severity of the disease in your body.
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Recent studies indicate that remission of symptoms is more likely when treatment begins early using medications known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
The types of medications recommended by your doctor will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how long you’ve had the rheumatoid arthritis. Medications used include :
All the above drugs have side effects which need to be monitored.
Medications can slow joint damage due to rheumatoid arthritis. When the damage becomes excessive surgery may need to be considered to repair the damaged joints.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints gradually deteriorates. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that permits nearly frictionless joint motion. In osteoarthritis, the smooth surface of the cartilage becomes roughed and worn. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, you may be left with bone rubbing on bone. The disorder most commonly affects joints of the hands, knees, hips and spine.
Osteoarthritis symptoms can usually be effectively managed, although the underlying process cannot be reversed. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and other treatments may slow progression of the disease and help improve pain and joint function. When joint pain and damage is severe, doctors may suggest joint replacement surgery.
Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly over time. Signs and symptoms may include:
Factors that may increase your risk of osteoarthritis include:
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune response where your body mistakenly attacks its own joints. Osteoarthritis is more or less due solely to wear on a particular joint over time.
Sometimes MRI results or Xray results state there is osteoarthritis present. With age most of us have some level of osteoarthritis due to wear on our joints. The important thing which your doctor will discuss with you is whether this level is normal for your age. A person can have mild osteoarthritis with no pain or symptoms and may have nothing to worry about.