Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) effects nearly one percent of the total population and is one of the most serious inflammatory forms of arthritis. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is the most common form of childhood arthritis.

RA is an autoimmune disease that mistakenly attacks the synovium fluid necessary for good joint function and joint preservation. As a result, many patients suffering from RA may also suffer over time from Osteoarthritis (OA) as well. With the ability to also effect multiple other organs of the body and generally symmetrically effects a joint on both sides of the body (left wrist and right wrist as well), R A is an aggressive type of arthritis that can effect life span and quality of life if left untreated.

Joint damage can occur early in the disease and continue to progress, though RA symptoms may come and go as this type of arthritis has both active (flare up) and inactive (in remission) periods.

Symptoms can vary, depending on the degree of tissue inflammation, and may include fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, joint stiffness and muscle and joint pain. Firm lumps known as rheumatoid nodules can occur where there is increased joint pressure – such as around the elbows and fingers.

Risk Factors
While the cause of RA is unknown, it is believed to be a genetic disease and may effect more than one person in a family. It is also believed that smoking tobacco may increase a person's risk of developing RA. Women are three times more likely to be effected by the disease than men. And while RA can develop at any age, it most often begins between the ages of 40 and 60. RA often effects the small joints of the hands, wrist and elbow.

Diagnosis and Treatment
A physical examination and thorough patient history review will help in the diagnosis. Other tests that may assist in the diagnosis of RA include a blood test, an x-ray, and a bone scan. Depending on the severity of joint deterioration and other patient factors, the disease may be treated with anti-inflammatory and/or antirheumatic drugs. In cases of severe joint deformity, surgery may be indicated.