Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation (pain and swelling) in your joints or the areas where two bones meet. If you've been dealing with joint pain, you may want to learn about RA. We're here to help with answers to five common questions about RA.
1. How is RA different from osteoarthritis?
RA is an autoimmune condition, meaning your body attacks the tissues that line your joints and causes inflammation. In contrast, osteoarthritis is often caused by aging, as the joints experience wear and tear over time.
Osteoarthritis typically affects one side of your body. But RA symptoms are usually symmetrical. For example, with RA, both of your hands or knees may hurt.
2. Who is at risk for getting RA?
You may be at an increased risk for RA if you:
- Are a woman, especially if you've never given birth.
- Are overweight.
- Are older. The disease can develop at any age, but the risk goes up with age.
In addition, you may develop RA if you have a family member who also has the condition.
3. What are the symptoms of RA?
RA can affect any joint, but it usually affects your hands, wrists, fingers, feet and knees. In addition to having pain, tenderness, stiffness and swelling in a joint, RA symptoms may include:
- Feeling unusually tired.
- Having firm lumps under your skin near your joints.
- Running an occasional low-grade fever.
- Losing your appetite.
4. How is RA treated?
If not treated, RA can lead to further joint damage, which can make it hard for you to perform daily tasks. RA can also cause problems with your body's organs, such as your heart, lungs and eyes.
The good news is that there are many treatments available to keep RA—and its symptoms—under control.
RA is usually treated with medications. These medications can help reduce inflammation or regulate your immune system to slow down joint and organ damage. For severe RA, surgery can help correct or replace a damaged joint. Last, making lifestyle changes—such as doing gentle exercises like swimming—may help you manage RA.
5. What should you do if you think you have RA?
It's a good idea to start by speaking with your primary care provider. The sooner treatment starts, the better to avoid severe joint damage and disability. Your provider will likely perform a physical exam as well as order lab tests and imaging studies to help with the diagnosis, so you can start treatment as soon as possible.
Watson Clinic’s Rheumatology department specializes in the diagnosis and effective treatment of arthritis. Call 863-680-7486 to schedule an appointment.
Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institutes of Health