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Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that typically affects the synovial joints of the hands and feet. It is an autoimmune disease that attacks the lining of joints and causes painful and often debilitating swelling.

What causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

As an autoimmune disease, Rheumatoid arthritis is caused when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells and tissues, which in this case make up the synovial lining of the joints in the hand. The synovial lining, as a result of this onslaught, swells up and impedes the free movement of the joints, and can also enter into and invade the cartilige of the joints, further impeding their function. It is not known at this time what the precise causes of Rheumatoid arthritis are, but it is generally accepted that there is some genetic component that makes one more susceptible to the immune and environmental factors that cause the disease.

What are the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is indicated by many signs, some of which include: tenderness, swelling and pain of the joints, red and puffy hands, as well as rheumatoid nodules, which occur beneath the skin on the top of the hands. One of the most pervasive signs is stiffness that occurs in the morning and can last long into the day. The symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis can be severe or mild, often varying form day to day on the same person, but it is generally advisable for you to seek a doctor’s care as soon as you think that the disease is appearing, regardless of whether or not it seems to go away because it will come back.

How to diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The first step in examining your arthritis and determining whether it is Rheumatoid is a physical examination, which will look at the precise nature of the affliction to your joints. After the initial signs are indicated, there may be other tests required in order to determine conclusively if you do indeed have Rheumatoid arthritis. If the disease has progressed to such a point that it will help, it is good to have a blood test to search for antibodies that indicate the presence of the disease. At later stages, X-rays can be helpful to monitor the evolution of the condition.

Treatment Options

Non-surgical treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Rheumatoid arthritis, but there are many medications that can aid in the reduction of inflammation and control of pain for those who suffer from the disease. Anti-inflammatory NSAIDs and corticosterioids can be used in concert with DMARDs, which are medications specifically designed to target Rheumatoid arthritis, as well as an array of immunosuppressants can be used to both relieve the painful inflammation and attempt to halt the progress of the disease. The ultimate goal is to achieve the reversal of symptoms, but at this point, controlling what already exists is a much more important goal. Apart from medications, it is also beneficial to meet with a therapist to discuss ways in which you can modify your daily routine to reduce the stress on your joints and ease the pain that you feel.

Surgical treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

If the medications and lifestyle modifications fail to inhibit the progression of Rheumatoid arthritis, it may be necessary for a doctor to perform surgery on your hands in order to relieve the symptoms and restore use to your hands. Depending on the severity of your arthritis, there are several different surgeries that may be possible. The most common in fingers is total joint replacement, in which the inflamed and damaged joints are removed entirely and replaced with prostheses of metal or silicone. In the wrist, it is more common for the joints to be fused, which can limit movement, but is less likely to have lasting complications and the risk for infection is less.

MCP joint replacement of all finger on the left hand of a patient with rheumatoid arthritis compared to right side prior to replacement.

How can Dr. Knight help you with Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Over the years, Dr. Knight has seen in many patients the painful effects of Rheumatoid arthritis, and understands how important it is for you to be relieved of that pain. Through careful study of your case, Dr. Knight will determine which solution is the best option for you, with the ultimate goal of restoring your hands to as much use as medically possible, so that you can get back to your life and work.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Animation Videos

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) of the Hand (Arthritis Foundation Approved) Animation Video

Artificial Joint Replacement of the Finger Animation Video

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