Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) involves inflammation of the lining of joints in the body. In early RA, for reasons that are not yet fully understood, inflammatory cells that usually circulate in the blood and protect against infections become activated and migrate to the lining of the joints. This lining is called synovium. In RA, inflamed synovium grows to 10-20 times its normal size and fills with inflammatory cells. This inflammatory process progressively causes damage to the joint structures leading to chronic pain and permanent damage in a relatively short time. This can ultimately lead to disability.
Who Is At Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
RA occurs in 1% of the adult population in the United States. This is greater than 2.4 million people. Usually, it affects people over the age of 20 and commonly occurs among women in their childbearing years. However, individuals in their eighth and ninth decades of life can also develop RA.
Genes or hereditary factors play a role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists have shown certain genes that play a role in the immune system may be involved in determining whether or not a person develops RA. Individuals who have relatives with RA will have a higher chance of developing the disease.
Infections and the Onset of Arthritis
Researchers have studied various viruses and bacteria but to date, no specific infectious causes for rheumatoid arthritis have been identified. The body seems to expose certain molecules to the immune system to activate the inflammatory process that causes RA in those individuals that are genetically predisposed. This inflammatory process becomes chronic, and the body cannot turn itself off.
What Are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Early warning signs for the development of RA include:
- Joint tenderness, warmth or swelling
- Joints on both sides of the body affected at the same time
- Joint inflammation commonly affecting the fingers, wrists, ankles, and toes
- Other affected joints, including the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees or jaw
- Fatigue, occasional fevers, and malaise (a general sense of not feeling well)
- Pain and stiffness lasting for more than one hour in the morning or after long periods of rest
- Ongoing symptoms that generally do not go away
What Are the Possible Effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
In the past, without adequate knowledge of the natural history of RA, doctors felt that the disease was a slowly progressive condition that did not alter an individual’s lifespan. Now it is realized that RA can be a rapidly progressive condition that alters all aspects of an individual’s life including:
- Ability to work
- Perform normal daily activities
- Feed, bathe and dress oneself
How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated?
With recent advances and a better understanding of immunology new treatments are now available to slow down the destructive process of rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment of RA includes controlling joint inflammation and starting the patient on a medically-advised exercise program. With proper treatment, pain, swelling, and decreased joint mobility will improve.
Unfortunately, the longer the duration of RA, the harder the disease becomes to treat. Irreversible damage to joints may lead to disability and ultimately, require surgery. The goal is to prevent irreversible damage by treating patients early.
Injections for Arthritis
There are many injections specifically for rheumatology and osteoporosis that can be administered by patients at home or in-office under medical supervision to ensure compliance. Some of these injections are as follows:
How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed?
The evaluation to diagnose RA includes:
- Recording your medical history and conducting a physical examination
- Performing blood tests to evaluate inflammation and markers of arthritis
- Possibly drawing fluid from inflamed joints to analyze the extent of the inflammation and rule out other arthritic conditions
- Taking x-rays of affected joints, especially the hands and feet
- Doing MRI on affected joints to assess joint problems that are harder to visualize on standard x-ray
Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis In Thousand Oaks, CA
If you have or think you may have rheumatoid arthritis, there is help available. Dr. Cohen and his expert medical team at Cohen Medical Centers are ready to help you manage this debilitating disease. To learn more about our treatments please call us at (805) 449-8781 to schedule your consultation; you may also fill out the form below, and a member of our helpful staff will get back to you.