What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a type of arthritis that can affect many of the joints in your body. It is more common in women than in men, and it is often found in patients less than 50 years of age. Rheumatoid Arthritis affects the joints on both sides of the body. This means that if a joint is swollen on one side of the body, the same joint should be swollen on the other side of the body.

What are the Symptoms of RA?
The symptoms of RA include:
   -Stiffness in the morning
   -Swelling and/or tenderness of joints such as the wrists, joints of the fingers, elbows, knees, ankles, and/or joints of the toes
   -Feeling tired
   -Nodules or lumps that form along bones or over joints

Can RA be Treated?
There is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis, but there are many treatments. Some of these, such as methotrexate, leflunomide (Arava), and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), have been used for many years. Others, such as adalimumab (Humira), etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade), rituximab (Rituxan), kineret (Anakinra), and abatacept (Orencia), are relatively new. There are other new medicines being used and tested for Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Only the Joints?
Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect other parts of the body. For example, patients with RA may develop nodules or lumps. These nodules are not usually tender or painful. Nodules may improve on their own over a period of time, or may grow even if the joint swelling improves.

Rheumatoid Arthritis can also affect the eyes by causing pain, redness, dryness, or decreased vision. Patients who have any of these symptoms should call their doctor immediately.

Patients with RA may develop fluid around their heart or lungs or inflammation of some of the heart or lung tissue. If a patient experiences shortness of breath or chest pain, he/she should inform his/her doctor immediately, or go to the emergency room.

Will I be Able to Function Well With Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The goal of treatment is to manage all of the joint swelling so that patients will be able to do everything they want to do. Rheumatologists are arthritis experts. Most patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis who see their Rheumatologist regularly, do well.