Rheumatoid Arthritis currently affects more than 2 million people in the United States. Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation of the joints, which can lead to pain, tenderness, and swelling. However, rheumatoid arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis characterized as an autoimmune disease in which the immune system itself mistakenly attacks its own joint tissue. Unlike some other types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can affect multiple joints and is considered a progressive disease. Fortunately, a Los Angeles orthopedic specialist can diagnose and provide rheumatoid arthritis treatment for those suffering from this painful condition.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) falls under the umbrella of inflammatory arthritis and is the most common type in this category. RA typically affects the small joints of the wrists, hands, and feet, causing swelling, tenderness, and pain, along with limitations in range of motion and functional movement.
Our joints are lined with synovial membranes, which contain synovial fluid. This fluid is responsible for lubricating and nourishing the cartilage and bones found within a joint capsule. Think of synovial fluid as a cushion for your joints.
RA occurs when the immune system attacks this synovium with antibodies, leaving it sore and inflamed. As a result, the synovium becomes thicker and may eventually damage both the cartilage and bone inside the joint. With time, tendons and ligaments weaken and stretch and the joint itself may eventually be completely destroyed.
There is currently no known cure for RA, however, with proper rheumatoid arthritis treatment, it is possible to manage symptoms and prevent joint and tissue damage. While it is currently not possible to prevent RA, knowing certain risk factors can improve the chance of an early diagnosis in order to treat and prevent the debilitating progression of the disease.
The Top 5 Risk Factors of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis
Unfortunately for women, being female is one of the biggest RA risks. Women are 2-3 times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men. Many experts hold the theory that this may be due to the effects of estrogen, the female hormone, and its impact on the body.
Inflammatory arthritis can develop at any age. However, while it is estimated that as many as 300,000 children in the United States suffer from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, RA is most likely to develop in people aged between 40-60 years old.
Many experts agree that RA is not an inherited disease, however, evidence suggests that if a close family member has been diagnosed with RA, a person may be predisposed to develop the disease.
Not only do smokers have a higher risk of developing RA, smoking can also worsen the disease progression and decrease the quality of life in the long term.
There are some findings that indicate low testosterone levels in males may be a predictor for developing RA later on in life.
Los Angeles scientists are currently studying DNA markers hoping to one day find the trigger that shows who is at risk for developing inflammatory arthritis in the hopes of preventing the onset of the disease. Until then, there are some early warning signs to look out for that may indicate a more comprehensive screening will be necessary to identify the condition.
These warning signs include:
- Pervasive fatigue
- Pain and tenderness
- Swelling and warmth
- Joint redness
- Joint stiffness
- Loss of joint range of motion and functional movement
- Multiple affected joints
- Joint deformity
- Both sides of the body affected (symmetric)
- Loss of joint function
Having just one of these symptoms alone may not mean a person is suffering from RA, however, having a group of these symptoms along with certain RA risks can indicate a need for further testing. And while currently there isn’t a cure for inflammatory arthritis, it is possible to manage the symptoms and maintain a good quality of life in Los Angeles.
Treating Inflammatory Arthritis
Treating inflammatory arthritis needs a tailored approach but all patients must start by getting an accurate diagnosis. Diagnosing a patient with RA is based on several factors including medical history, physical exam, and diagnostics (X-Ray, MRI, Blood Tests, Joint Fluid Analysis). In the beginning, most patients begin with a conservative treatment approach with pain management as its focus. This can include using pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) along with physical therapy to help preserve functional movement.
If a patient’s symptoms progress to where conservative treatments are no longer effective, surgical intervention may be helpful for reducing pain and improving movement ability to participate in daily tasks. Surgical interventions include:
- Tendon Repair
- Joint Fusion
- Total Joint Replacement
Learn more about inflammatory arthritis at cdc.gov.
Contact an Orthopedic Specialist in Los Angeles Today
If you are experiencing the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis or require a second opinion, contact Dr. Daniel C. Allison in Los Angeles today at (310) 730-8008 to schedule a consultation. Early treatment of RA can help maintain function and improve your quality of life.
Next, learn about some of the Common Causes of Joint Pain.