Rheumatoid Arthritis

About 1.3 million people in the U.S. have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that results in damage to the joint tissues.

In autoimmune diseases like RA, the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies healthy tissues – in this case, the synovial tissues that surround joints – for harmful “invaders,” sending out antibodies to destroy the tissues.

Although RA primarily affects the joints, it can also cause problems in other areas of the body, including the heart and lungs, and it can also increase the risks for heart attack and stroke.

Without proper treatment, RA can cause severe swelling and pain, joint deformity and permanent disability. People with RA also frequently experience depression as a result of their symptoms and disability.

What causes RA?

The cause of RA isn’t completely understood, but researchers believe factors like heredity or genetics, environmental factors or lifestyle issues like smoking could play a role. Women are more than twice as likely to have RA as men, and some researchers believe hormones are involved in triggering the disease. Although ti can occur at any age, RA most commonly begins between the ages of 30 and 60 years of age, with men developing the condition a little alter than women. People who have other types of autoimmune disorders are also more likely to develop additional autoimmune diseases like RA.

What symptoms does rheumatoid arthritis cause?

RA symptoms change as the disease develops. At first, small joints like the toes and fingers may swell or become stiff and warm. Symptoms may come and go initially, lasting a few days or a few weeks before disappearing for a period of time, known as remission. As the disease progresses, symptoms will begin to appear in the larger joints, including the knees, hips and shoulders, and the period of time between flareups will decrease. Joint damage can occur within two years of disease onset, and without proper treatment, joint damage can progress rapidly.

In addition to joint-specific symptoms, people with RA may also experience symptoms like:

  • low-grade fever
  • unintentional weight loss
  • fatigue
  • anemia
  • prolonged periods of pain and stiffness after a period of immobility

How is RA diagnosed and treated?

The symptoms of RA can vary significantly from one person to another in the early stages of the disease, and the symptoms can be very similar to osteoarthritis, making it difficult to diagnose. In addition to a physical exam and medical history, diagnosis may involve blood tests to look for antibodies and signs of inflammation or x-rays to check for joint damage. Once RA is diagnosed, treatment can include medications to reduce pain and inflammation, slow the progression of the disease and prevent joint damage. Physical or occupational therapy may be prescribed to help improve mobility and decrease pain and stiffness. If joint damage is severe, joint replacement surgery may be needed to correct deformities or restore joint function.

Why choose Dr. Karkare?

Dr. Nakul Karkare - NY Orthopedic SurgeonDr. Karkare has extensive skills and experience in treating RA, using the most advanced techniques and technology to help patients from throughout the New York City area relieve their symptoms and prevent permanent disability.

If you’ve been experiencing joint pain, stiffness, swelling or other symptoms, or if you’ve been diagnosed with RA, call (212) 951-0182.