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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects your joints. Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. If joints on one side of your body have rheumatoid arthritis, usually those joints on the other side do too. This disease often occurs in more than one joint. It can affect any joint in the body.

Anyone can get rheumatoid arthritis, but it occurs more often in women and is most common in older people.

Causes

Doctors don't know the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis, but may include:

  • Environmental factors.

Symptoms

  • Tender, warm, swollen joints.
  • Swollen joints on both sides of the body, such as in both your right and left wrist.
  • Swollen joints often in the wrist and finger joints closest to the hand.
  • Swollen joints sometimes in other joints, including the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, and feet.
  • Feeling tired and having low energy.
  • Pain and stiffness lasting for more than 30 minutes in the morning or after a long rest.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe. They can develop gradually or suddenly and may come and go or persist over time.

Diagnosis

No blood test can definitively diagnose RA. You doctor may use medical history, a physical exam, x-rays and other imaging tests, and lab tests.

Rheumatoid Factor

Treatment

Your doctor may prescribe medications. Although you have probably seen many commercials about medications that help RA, talk to your doctor about what is right for you. He may be able to help you with non-medication treatments or prescribe less expensive alternatives. In some cases, your doctor may recommend joint replacement surgery.

Managing Your Condition

  • Join a self-management education workshop.
  • Be active.
  • Manage your weight.

Physical Activity for Arthritis

Self-management Education Workshops