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 of 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 it 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 later 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 flare-ups 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
- prolonged periods of pain and stiffness after a period of immobility
How to diagnose and treat RA?
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 diagnosed, a doctor will prescribe medication to treat RA. Medicines will reduce pain, 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 the joint damage is severe, joint replacement surgery may be needed to correct deformities or restore joint function.
Why choose Dr. Kakare?
As a top joint replacement specialist in New York City, Dr. Karkare has a stellar reputation, extensive experience, ensuring patients have the broadest array of safe and effective treatment options to relieve pain and other symptoms.
To schedule your evaluation, call (212)951-0182 or use our online contact form to learn more.