Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling that can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity. Mercy's rheumatologists and orthopedic surgeons help patients manage symptoms and pain resulting from rheumatoid arthritis.


Rheumatoid Arthritis

About Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition that occurs when the body's immune system begins to attack healthy cells and tissue. Unlike the “wear-and-tear” damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis destroys the lining of the joints, causing a painful swelling that can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects smaller joints first, such as fingers and toes, and then can develop in the hips, knees, ankles, elbows and shoulders.

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.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

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

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in the foot may include:

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

Treatment Options for Rheumatoid Arthritis

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but treatment options are available to control inflammation and reduce pain. Treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Activity modification

For severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis, surgery may be the best treatment option to relieve pain and improve joint mobility. Surgical treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can include the arthroscopic removal of the joint lining, fusion surgery, osteotomies (bone cuts), or a total joint replacement.

Rheumatology at Mercy offers physician expertise for the diagnosis and treatment of a wide spectrum of rheumatic disorders and conditions such as arthritis and autoimmune disease.