Symptoms & Side Effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis

By Angel Sharum

  • Overview

    Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disorder in which the white blood cells move into the membranes surrounding the joints causing pain, damage and swelling. This in turn causes a protein to be released that makes the synovium, or lining of the joints, thicken. Rheumatoid arthritis eventually leads to joint deformity.
  • Symptoms and Side Effects

    The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include joint problems such as pain, swelling, tenderness, and morning stiffness. Knots, called rheumatoid nodules, also sometimes form under the skin on the arms. Other symptoms associated with this condition are fatigue, fever, weight loss, red and puffy hands, weakness, and sleeplessness. Rheumatoid arthritis causes disfiguration of the joints. It can make everyday tasks, such as opening jars or doors, impossible. Your energy level will also decrease. While there is no cure for the disease, with treatment, the progression can be slowed and joint damage stopped, allowing rheumatoid arthritis sufferers to lead longer lives that are more productive.
  • Considerations

    Rheumatoid arthritis attacks multiple joints in the body at the same time. Symptoms tend to start in the smaller joints first. The wrist, ankles, hands, and feet are often the first places you'll notice pain and swelling. Once the disease progresses, the hips, knees, elbows, shoulders, jaw, and neck can become inflamed.

  • Rheumatoid Flare

    Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms vary in severity. There may be times when no symptoms are felt at all. When in a flare, the swelling, pain and weakness symptoms all increase exponentially. A person in a flare needs to take it easy on himself and listen to his body. Doing too much will increase pain and discomfort.
  • Cause

    Doctor's do not know what causes the white blood cells to invade the membranes surrounding the joints, starting the process of rheumatoid arthritis. Some of the things thought to play a part in the disease are lifestyle choices such as smoking, and environmental factors such as viruses. While an exact cause isn't known, some factors do increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Women are more likely to develop the disease than men. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, but is more common between 40 and 60. The disease isn't thought to be hereditary, but a family history does put you at greater risk. If you have any of these risk factors and are experiencing symptoms, check with your doctor.
  • Treatment

    Medications for this condition relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and slow or prevent joint damage. Different medications are called for depending on the severity of the condition. If medication treatment doesn't work, surgery is often employed. Check the Resource section below for more information on medications that are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
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