Everything you should know about Rheumatoid Arthritis

DayToDay Team
December 30, 2021

Arthritis is a medical term that doctors use to address joint pain and inflammation. Though there are about two hundred different types of Arthritis, some of them are a lot more common than others. One may have heard of Osteoarthritis, Lupus, Gout, Fibromyalgia, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

According to CDC, over 54.4 million adults in the USA are diagnosed with some form of Arthritis. Out of these, over 1.5 million have Rheumatoid Arthritis. In India, over 180 million people suffer from Arthritis and over 0.92% of the adult population suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that is autoimmune, chronic, and inflammatory. Let’s understand more about the disease, its signs and symptoms, risks, diagnosis, treatment, and management.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

RA is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake. It causes inflammation and pain in the joints and affected body parts. Rheumatoid Arthritis causes inflammation of the lining of joints that can lead to chronic pain, deformity, and loss of function.

If not diagnosed on time, RA can affect soft tissue, skin, and organs like the heart, lungs, and eyes. Early diagnosis and treatment are necessary for improvement and stopping the damage that leads to joint replacements.

One must connect with a Rheumatologist if they have any joint pain, swelling, or inflammation. A rheumatologist helps with a definitive diagnosis for arthritis and autoimmune disorders. Though RA remains a serious disease, early diagnosis and treatment advancements can lead to good prognosis.

People at risk

Some characteristics in people make them more at risk of developing RA than others. These risks include -

  • People in the older population (60 years +), even though RA can develop at any age
  • Women are two to three times more susceptible to RA
  • Individuals with certain genetic factors like the HLA class II genotype with exposure to environmental factors
  • Women who have never given birth
  • Individuals who smoke
  • Individuals who are obese

Early signs and symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Keeping an eye on some warning signs can lead to early intervention and management of the disease. Some early signs and symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis include -

  • Extreme fatigue or feeling exhausted
  • Slight fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Joint tenderness and stiffness
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling and redness around the joints

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis include its early or warning signs. The symptoms for every RA patient are different. Some patients may have severe joint pains immediately, and some have it gradually. Apart from the above signs, Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms include

  • Pain in joints just after waking up, especially in the smaller joints (fingers, toes)
  • Pain progresses toward bigger joints, including wrists, ankles, elbows, knees, hips, and shoulders
  • Hard lumps, also known as Rheumatoid nodules near elbows, ankles, or hands

Untreated RA may lead to joint deformities, Carpal tunnel syndrome, inflammation around the skin, eyes, lungs, and a greater risk of stroke and heart attack.

Diagnosis/ Investigations

A rheumatologist is a doctor who helps with an RA diagnosis. No one particular test can determine if an individual has RA. The doctor usually runs a series of diagnostic tests that include -

  • Blood tests to check for anemia, C-reactive protein, ESR, anti-CCP, and Rheumatoid factor
  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

Imaging also helps to keep an eye on the progression of the disease.

Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

There is no 100% cure for RA. Though, many management techniques are available that help patients manage joint paint, minimize joint damage, and ultimately improve their quality of life. The CDC lists out the following Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment and management options.

Medications: NSAIDs and DMARDs are often given to patients to manage pain and inflammation. Some doctors may also prescribe counterirritant ointments, analgesics, corticosteroids, and biologics.

Natural remedies: These often include lifestyle modifications, like limiting tobacco and alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, and taking a balanced diet. Getting good sleep, managing fatigue, caring for joints, and getting regular checkups to help manage RA.

Physical and occupational therapies: Physiotherapy exercises specific to conditions and patient’s needs can help in recovery. Warm water therapy helps manage pain by releasing pressure from affected joints. Occupational therapies, using protective aids and equipment help in managing fatigue and protecting joints from further damage.

Physical activity: Doctors advise walking, swimming, cycling, and other activities depending on the patient’s condition and requirements. A thirty-minute session, five days a week, can help with long-term symptom management. One can break down these thirty minutes into three ten-minute sessions.

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment also includes surgeries like joint replacement. A rheumatologist and orthopedic surgeon may weigh in the advantages and disadvantages of the surgery and inform their patient. If the doctor recommends surgery, one should understand the procedure, its risks, and the recovery process in depth. Patient education and support are essential for all treatment procedures. They form the backbone for early recovery and rehabilitation.

To know about DayToDay Health’s post-surgery ortho care plan, connect with us at

Alexis den Boggende
Alexis den Boggende
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