Do you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this type of autoimmune disease affects 18 million people across the globe. If you have RA, take a look at what you need to know about living with the disease, the treatment options, and how a rheumatologist can help.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
RA is one type of arthritis—a condition that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. Unlike joint pain from repeated physical stress or an injury, RA is an autoimmune disease. This means your immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy cells and tissue of your body. Other autoimmune diseases include lupus, type 1 diabetes, myasthenia gravis, and multiple sclerosis.
This type of arthritis can affect your fingers, hands, wrists, knees, feet, toes, or ankles. It can also impact your skin, eyes, mouth, lungs, or heart. Along with joint aches, stiffness, or pain, you may experience RA-related fatigue, weakness, fever, or weight loss.
Why Do You Have RA?
There is no one cause for RA. It's possible that genetics, the environment around you, hormones, or a combination of these factors could cause rheumatoid arthritis. An illness or infection, high stress levels, or hormonal ups and downs are potential triggers that could push your immune system to attack your body and cause RA.
Can You Cure RA?
No, you can't cure rheumatoid arthritis. But this doesn't mean you have to live with painful symptoms 24-7 or suffer from constant attacks. There are treatments for this autoimmune disease. This makes visiting a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, important.
How Do You Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?
There are several different treatment options. The treatment (or treatments) you choose depend on your symptoms, the severity of your symptoms, your overall health, other medical issues, your personal preferences, and your doctor's recommendations. Common ways to treat the symptoms of RA include corticosteroids, Janus kinase inhibitors (JAK inhibitors), other disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biologics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (also known as NSAIDS), and physical therapy.
Some people with severe RA or patients who have significant joint trauma from rheumatoid arthritis may need surgery. Common joint-related surgeries include knee replacement or hip replacement. Surgery is not a first-line treatment for RA and is only used when other options do not stop joint damage progression.
When Should You Make An Appointment With A Rheumatologist?
You don't have to wait to see a specialist. Contact the doctor's office as soon as you have a diagnosis. This allows you to start treatment as soon as possible and reduce the symptoms of RA.
Reach out to a healthcare center like Sarasota Arthritis Center to learn more.