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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Symptoms and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own defense mechanisms attack the tissues surrounding the joints. It's a complicated condition, but patients who know the facts about it can participate in choosing the proper course of treatment. Rheumatoid arthritis has been diagnosed in both the young (as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) and old, and can be found in males and females, although women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with it than men. Researchers haven't found a definitive cause for rheumatoid arthritis, but they have considered hormones, environmental factors, genetic tendencies and viruses as possible triggers.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

One rheumatoid arthritis early symptom is pain, particularly in the smaller joints of the hands or feet. All of those with the disease will experience this at its onset. Other symptoms vary from person to person, but might include some or all of the following:

  • Swelling of the joints in the fingers, wrists, knees and feet
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Fever in joints
  • Spasms of adjacent muscles
  • Stiffness in the affected areas
  • Knots of varying sizes (rheumatoid nodules)

When diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis, doctors check to see if the joints on both sides of the body are similarly affected. Rheumatologists have found that rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are always symmetrical; for example, if the right wrist is affected, the left will be also.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

While rheumatoid arthritis was once a disease with very few treatment options, modern medicine has made great strides in discovering treatments to alleviate many rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Some of these are very simple, while others are more complicated or costly. Most of these therapies are used in some combination in an attempt to manage the variety of symptoms associated with the disease. The following rheumatoid arthritis treatments are often used by rheumatologists as they try to give patients some relief:

  • Hot and cold therapy
  • Massage or physical therapy
  • Diet and exercise programs
  • Alternative treatments such as acupuncture, meditation or stress reduction classes
  • Drug therapies to ease inflammation and block the body's immune system

Many early rheumatoid arthritis medications caused damage to other organs of the body, but today's drugs have fewer side effects. Both those with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and adult onset rheumatoid arthritis should be confident that modern treatment can help them develop a management plan for their condition.

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