What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that is chronic (ongoing). It occurs in the joints on both sides of your body, which makes it different from other types of arthritis. You may have symptoms of pain and inflammation in your:
Uncontrolled inflammation damages cartilage, which normally acts as a “shock absorber” in your joints. In time, this can deform your joints. Eventually, your bone itself erodes. This can lead to the fusion of your joint (an effort of your body to protect itself from constant irritation).
Specific cells in your immune system (your body’s infection-fighting system) aid this process. These substances are produced in your joints but also circulate and cause symptoms throughout your body. In addition to affecting your joints, rheumatoid arthritis sometimes affects other parts of your body, including your:
hat are the goals of treating rheumatoid arthritis?
The most important goal of treating rheumatoid arthritis is to reduce joint pain and swelling. Doing so should help maintain or improve joint function. The long-term goal of treatment is to slow or stop joint damage. Controlling joint inflammation reduces your pain and improves your quality of life.
How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?
Joint damage generally occurs within the first two years of diagnosis, so it’s important to see your provider if you notice symptoms. Treating rheumatoid arthritis in this “window of opportunity” can help prevent long-term consequences.
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis include lifestyle changes, therapies, medicine and surgery. Your provider considers your age, health, medical history and how bad your symptoms are when deciding on a treatment.