Arthritis is a chronic disease, characterized by inflammation of the musculoskeletal system, and most commonly affects the joints. However, arthritis is not a single condition but a term that describes a number of medical conditions. Check out this overview for the facts on rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a type of arthritis that affects the tissues lining the joints, causing progressive inflammation that may eventually deteriorate the joint tissues themselves. Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis typically develop the disease between the ages of 40 and 60.
RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning that it causes your body’s natural defense system to turn upon itself and attack your joint tissues rather than protect them. While the underlying cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, factors that may increase the risk of RA include:
- A family history of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Gender—RA is two to three times more common in women than in men.
- Smoking cigarettes and other tobacco use.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include tender, swollen, or warm joints as well as morning stiffness that lasts for several hours. Additional signs of RA include fatigue, fever, weight loss, and firm bumps of tissue beneath the skin of the arms. Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis tend to first experience symptoms in their fingers and toes before the disease progresses to their knees, ankles, hips, and shoulders.
After assessing your past medical history and symptoms, your orthopaedic doctor will perform a physical evaluation in order to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. Your doctor may also perform an X-ray, MRI exam, or blood test to determine the underlying cause of pain.
Your orthopaedic doctor may recommend any number of treatment options to manage the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including oral medications, injections, exercise therapy, and lifestyle modifications.
If you are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, or a stress fracture, or are in need of a knee replacement, the orthopaedic surgeons with MK Orthopaedics are here to help. Call our office at (815) 741-6900 to set up an initial consultation.