What Increases Your Risk
The only known risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis is a possible genetic predisposition in some people. A genetic factor may affect how the immune system functions, causing inflammation and eventual destruction of the membranes lining the joints.
Joint pain can be an early symptom of many different diseases. In rheumatoid arthritis, symptoms often develop slowly over a period of weeks or months. Fatigue and stiffness are usually early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Weight loss and low-grade fever can occur.Joint symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the hands, wrists, elbows, feet, ankles, knees, or neck. It usually affects both sides of the body at the same time, and more than three sets of joints may be affected at one time.In addition to specific joint symptoms, rheumatoid arthritis can cause symptoms throughout the body (systemic). These include:
Other organ involvement may occur later in the course of the disease. In a small number of severe cases, rheumatoid arthritis may also cause damage to the heart, lungs, skin, blood vessels, nerves, and eyes. Specific joint problems may also occur later in the course of the disease.These include:
Some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may be similar to symptoms of other health conditions.
Progression of the disease is more likely when:
Rheumatoid arthritis is most often treated with medication, exercise, and lifestyle changes. While treatment may help relieve symptoms and control the disease, there is no cure. The goal of treatment is to help you maintain your lifestyle, reduce joint pain, slow joint damage, and prevent permanent disability.
Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis should start with education about this disease, the possibility of joint damage and disability, and the risks and benefits of potential treatments. A long-term treatment plan should be developed by you and your health professional team.
Medications called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that can actually slow or sometimes prevent joint destruction are now recommended early in the course of the disease. DMARDs can help prevent the significant joint damage that may occur in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis. The purpose of early treatment is to:
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