Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of several autoimmune diseases which cause chronic joint pain, stiffness and fever. Though RA most usually affects the smaller joints in the hands, fingers and toes, the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis can also influence the soft tissues surrounding the joints and even other organs of the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease as it can affect other organs in addition to the joints unlike osteoarthritis which is caused by the normal wear and tear of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive condition with the possibility to cause disfiguration and severely limit mobility and function.
UPDATE: Treatment Of Osteoarthritis In The Hands
Rheumatoid arthritis affects over one and a third million people around the United States between the ages of forty and sixty. Women are three times most likely to be affected by rheumatoid arthritis than men. Various researches suggest that the potential for developing rheumatoid arthritis is genetic as often several family members will have the disease. While there are many theories and evidence that a variety of factors may trigger rheumatoid arthritis the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis remains unknown and continues to form the basis of extensive research.
Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may come and go. Symptom-free times are known as remissions and may last days, months, weeks, or even years. Remission may occur spontaneously or following treatment. When inflammation reoccurs the disease is said to be in an active phase.
Active signs of RA include a loss of energy, muscle aches, striving, and generalized fatigue and at times a low grade fever. The degree or seriousness of these symptoms can differ widely among individuals. Redness, swelling and pain or tenderness of the tissue surrounding the affected joints occurs due to increased fluid in the synovial lining of the joints often causes a thickening of this tissue leading to permanent damage over time.
Diagnosing RA is often as much a matter of ruling out other inflammatory diseases conditions as it is pinpointing a diagnosis for rheumatoid arthritis.
Lumps or nodules present under the skin (rheumatoid nodules) in the pressure points of the body, especially the elbows.
The presence of four or more of the following indicators which take more than six weeks is general calls for a diagnosis of rheumatic arthritis.
Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is approached with the aim of controlling inflammation and pain as well as stopping or slowing the spread of the disease.
A combination of diet, physical therapy, medication, and exercise is used to get the best results. In extreme cases where joints have been damaged, surgery may be recommended.
The medications used to treat RA are strong and carry side-effects and risks factors it is important, therefore, to get a clear diagnosis for rheumatoid arthritis before taking any prescription medications to treat symptoms of arthritis.
Early signs of inflammation and pain may be controlled with over the counter medications such as aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen. Alternating hot and cold packs may also help manage stiffness and pain in the joints but for chronic joint pain a full evaluation by a doctor may assist in improved management of the condition and prevent permanent damage.
If you think you have any signs or symptoms of RA make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your doctor as soon as possible, especially if there’s other family members with the disease.
Best treatment for Osteoarthritis – hot or cold?I have seen both suggested as treatment for arthritis. Which is better for arthritis of the hand? Ice packs or heat?Thanks.
It really depends on the person. Many people enjoy heat on their affected joints, while cold can often make a joint hurt more. With that said, there is no set rule and either can be an effective treatment. It is common to think that a cold climate increases the risk of arthritis, while a hot climate cures it. However, this is false. In reality, climate at worst has an effect on symptoms.
Both – experiment a little and feel free to mix it up. Heat tends to be better for stiffness, and ice THEN warmth for injury (say, when you went overboard working in the yard, or dropped a bag of groceries on your toes)
ice tends to be better when you have swelling because it helps the swelling go down while heat is better for pain. I use both depending on what feels better to me at the time. I never really like using the ice but it does help with the swelling a lot.