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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of chronic arthritis. It usually affects joints on both sides of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect other parts of the body.

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Common Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

- Joint tenderness, warmth, and swelling. This usually occurs in joints on both sides of the body at the same time (ie. both knees, both wrists, etc.)
- Pain and stiffness, especially first thing in the morning or after a long rest.
- Fatigue
- Symptoms in other parts of the body, not just in the joints

What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The exact cause of RA is not yet known. We do know that RA is an autoimmune disease. This means that the body's immune system attacks healthy joint tissue, causing inflammation and joint damage. It is not fully understood what causes the immune system to do this, but it is thought that a virus or bacteria may alter the immune system, causing it to attack the joints.

Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are many different treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Treatments include medications, rest and exercise. Surgery may be necessary to correct damage to a joint. The treatment will be specific to the Rheumatoid Arthritis patients needs. Medications used to decrease joint pain, swelling and inflammation include medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen. There are also Topical pain relievers like creams and ointments which are applied directly to the skin over the affected joint. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone may also be used to decrease inflammation and reduce the activity of the immune system. There are also many strong medications that are used to the suppress the immune system. Some of these medications include: Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, Orencia, Imuran, Cytoxan, and cyclosporin, Azulfidine and Arava. Rest and Exercise are also very important in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis. During flare-ups (times when pain & inflammation is worse), it is best to rest the joints that are affected. It may be helpful to use a cane or joint splints temporarily. At times when the joints are feeling better, it is important to exercise to keep the joints flexible and the muscles around them strong. When pain is not controlled with medications or joint damage has become severe, surgery may be needed to help restore function to the joint(s).

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