The following information will help answer some of your questions about rheumatoid arthritis. It'll also provide information about the different ways to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints. With RA, the immune system, which normally protects the body by fighting infection and disease, attacks the tissues that line the joints and affects their ability to work properly. Over time, RA may damage bone and cartilage in the joints and weaken the muscles and tendons that support them. RA usually occurs in a symmetrical pattern, which means that if one hand is affected, the other hand is as well.
What causes RA?
Scientists still don't know exactly what causes RA but research has shown certain factors that may be involved:
- Genetic factors—Certain genes passed from parent to child are known to play a role in the development of RA, although they are not the only factor.
- Environmental factors—Some scientists believe there is something environmental (such as an infection) that may trigger a person whose genetic makeup makes them more likely to develop the condition.
- Other factors—Females are more likely to develop RA than males.
How is RA treated?
The treatment goal for RA is to relieve pain, reduce swelling in the joints, slow down or stop joint damage, and help people feel better and stay active. Medications are generally taken by mouth or given as a shot and may include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — Reduce the amount of swelling and helps quickly relieve pain
- Corticosteroids — Reduce swelling and help relieve pain over time
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic response modifiers (biologics) — Reduce swelling, help relieve pain over time, and slow or prevent joint damage
Physical therapy also helps preserve joint function and may prevent deformities.
View a video with more information on Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment and care.
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