More than 1.3 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes painful swelling of the tissues lining the joints.1 At Beacon Orthopaedics, our specialists provide effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis patients in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio as well as Northern Kentucky and nearby communities.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis, commonly referred to as RA, is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the tissues that line the joints. Unlike other types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis attacks joints on both sides of the body. Also, unlike the more common osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is not a result of wear and tear on a joint.
Over time, painful swelling of the lining of the joints can lead to inflammation that damages the cartilage and may eventually lead to bone erosion. While rheumatoid arthritis most commonly causes swelling and pain in the joints, this condition can also impact other parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, skin, eyes, and blood vessels.2
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
People diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis are generally diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60, though this chronic disease can be developed at any age. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis often begin with small joints like the hands or wrists and may include:
- Pain that affects more than one joint
- Stiffness that affects more than one joint
- Swelling that affects more than one joint
- Matching symptoms on both sides of the body (such as in both ankles)
- Weight Loss
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may experience worsening of symptoms, called flares. They may also experience periods where their symptoms are reduced, called remission.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, antibodies in the body’s immune system attack the synovium, which is the tissue that surrounds the joints and produces fluid to help the joints move smoothly. As the synovium becomes inflamed, it causes pain, tenderness, and swelling in the joint that may make moving difficult.
The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but researchers believe that there is a genetic factor in the development of this autoimmune disease. Still, not every person with an increased risk due to inherited genes develops rheumatoid arthritis: it is believed that there is a “trigger” such as an environmental factor that activates the RA genes.4
Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The goals of rheumatoid arthritis treatment are to reduce or stop inflammation, alleviate symptoms, prevent further joint and/or organ damage, reduce future complications, and improve the patient’s function and quality of life.5 Many rheumatoid arthritis patients work with a team of healthcare providers, including an orthopaedic surgeon and a rheumatologist as well as physical therapists, social workers, and occupational therapists.
The American College of Rheumatology states that early treatment for RA reduces the need for future joint replacement and yields better long-term results for patients.6
Non-Surgical Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
At Beacon Orthopaedics, we always begin with the least invasive treatments to alleviate a patient’s symptoms from RA. Non-surgical treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis includes:
- Medication to relieve symptoms
- Medication to change the course of the disease
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
Medication for rheumatoid arthritis may include biologic, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS) and second-line drugs.
Surgery for Rheumatoid Arthritis
In patients who experience severe joint damage from RA that causes a loss of functionality or significant deformity, joint replacement surgery may be performed.
Frequently Asked Questions About Rheumatoid Arthritis
Who is at risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis?
While the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, researchers do believe there are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of an RA diagnosis. Factors that may lead to a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis include:
How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?
The first step in diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis is a physical examination and review of the patient’s medical history. Next, blood tests will be performed to look for blood proteins and inflammatory cells. Imaging tests like X-rays, ultrasound, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans may also be performed.7
What are the stages of rheumatoid arthritis?
The stages of rheumatoid arthritis are:
- Stage 1: Patients experience painful joints and stiffness, but changes to the bones won’t be visible through X-ray.
- Stage 2: Rheumatoid arthritis has begun to cause damage to the cartilage in the joints. Patients may notice increased stiffness and decreased range of motion.
- Stage 3: At this stage of RA, joint inflammation has progressed to the extent that bone damage is apparent. In addition to pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility, patients may also notice physical changes.
- Stage 4: Once RA has progressed to Stage 4, inflammation abates but patients experience severe pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of mobility.8
Contact Beacon Orthopaedics
If you or your loved one has symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis or has been diagnosed with RA, contact the specialists at Beacon Orthopaedics. The earlier we are able to render treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, the more effective that treatment will be. We proudly serve patients from Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio as well as Northern Kentucky.
1 Cleveland Clinic. Rheumatoid arthritis. Available: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4924-rheumatoid-arthritis. Accessed August 1, 2022.
2 Mayo Clinic. Rheumatoid arthritis. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648. Accessed August 1, 2022.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Available: https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/rheumatoid-arthritis.html. Accessed August 1, 2022.
4 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Rheumatoid arthritis. Available: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/. Accessed August 1, 2022.
5 Arthritis Foundation. Rheumatoid arthritis. Available: https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/rheumatoid-arthritis. Accessed August 1, 2022.
6 American College of Rheumatology. Rheumatoid arthritis. Available: https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Rheumatoid-Arthritis. Accessed August 1, 2022.
7 Cleveland Clinic. Rheumatoid arthritis. Available: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4924-rheumatoid-arthritis. Accessed August 1, 2022..
8 Cleveland Clinic. Rheumatoid arthritis. Available: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4924-rheumatoid-arthritis. Accessed August 1, 2022.