5 things to know about rheumatoid arthritis

Although the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, this long-term, autoimmune disease can be disabling. The more you know about the disease, the more likely you are to be able to manage its effects.

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  • Although the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, this long-term, autoimmune disease can be disabling. The more you know about the disease, the more likely you are to be able to manage its effects.

  • The five things to know about rheumatoid arthritis are:

  • Understanding the disease

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA as the community calls it, is an autoimmune disease, which means that the patient’s own body has launched an attack on itself, in this case, attacking joints and, in some cases, organs. RA occurs more often in women than men. It most often occurs in middle age, though it can occur at any age.

  • Identifying symptoms

  • The biggest clue that you might have RA is if you begin to develop joint pain that is symmetrical, that is you get the same pain on both sides of your body. For instance, you might notice that both of your hands elbows or knees are aching, stiff and sore — especially in the morning. This would likely be your first clue that it is time to see a rheumatologist. There are a number of other symptoms of the disease as it progresses. Joints may become observably deformed, and range of motion significantly limited. The disease may also bring on pleurisy or difficulty breathing. Dry eyes and mouth may also result. Eye burning and discharge may occur. Numbness and tingling in hands and feet is sometimes present. In severe cases, nodules may develop under the skin.

  • Diagnosis

  • Your doctor can run a variety of tests to determine whether or not you have RA, though it is possible that all of the tests will show normal results, and yet you may still have the disease.

  • Treatments

  • There is a variety of medications that impact the disease. Methotrexate, a common chemotherapy drug is most often prescribed. Leflunomide is also commonly used to treat the disease. These drugs are considered “disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs” or DMARDS. Anti-inflammatory drugs are also prescribed; virtually all, however, have challenging side effects and risks associated with long-term use that must be considered. For acute pain and swelling, doctors will sometimes prescribe corticosteroids; due to their complications, they are rarely used for extended periods. The newest weapons in the battle against RA are biological agents. These new drugs like Humira and Enbrel are expensive and also have side effects; many patients observe significant relief of symptoms from these new drugs.

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  • Life goes on

  • An RA diagnosis is not a death sentence; far from it. Many patients carry on normal lives, remaining productive in the work force and enjoying life. The progression of the disease will vary by individual, and some may experience a remission of symptoms altogether. While most patients are familiar with “flare ups” in the disease, they learn to manage them. Your rheumatologist will want to see you regularly, in part to check your blood to be sure neither the treatments nor the disease has caused organ damage.

  • You can learn more about the disease from a variety of places on the web, including the National Library of Medicine’s online version of PubMed Health.

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Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.

Website: http://www.yourmarkontheworld.com

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