Rheumatoid Arthritis - Treatment and Symptom Management

 

Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly affects the joints in the wrists, hands, knees, ankles and feet. This medical animation explains the disease as well as treatment options that may help to control symptoms.

The doctors of Rheumatology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, provide patients with diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. This type of arthritis affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling that can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.

About the Condition

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition that occurs when your body's immune system begins to attack healthy cells and tissue. The disorder typically affects the small joints in the hands and feet first. Unlike the “wear-and-tear” damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.

The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown and there is currently no cure. It typically affects adults over the age of 40, and is more common in women than men.

NEXT: Symptoms & Diagnostic Process ›
Symptoms & Diagnostic Process

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis typically begin in the small joints of the hands and feet first and then may spread to the knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders. The disorder may alternate between remission and severe flares, but in general, worsen over time. In most cases, symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of your body. The most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include the following:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Fatigue

Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis may require a combination of tests, including a physical examination, imaging tests and blood tests.

NEXT: Treatment Options ›
Treatment Options

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, so treatment is aimed at reducing pain and maintaining joint functionality. Your doctor will most likely begin with conservative methods of treatment, including medications to reduce symptoms. Therapies, such as physical or occupational therapy, may help patients maintain joint movement with minimal pain. In more severe cases, surgery or injections may be required to relieve pain and help with joint mobility.

The rheumatologists at Mercy are experienced in the care of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and can help you create a health management plan that is right for you.