What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease, meaning the body’s immune systems attacks itself. These can particularly affect joints, especially in the hands and feet. This causes joint inflammation, joint loosening, damage to ligaments and tendons, and degeneration of cartilage. As a result of this inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in joints.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis?
It is not completely known what causes rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is thought to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Infections and environmental factors can trigger the body’s immune response which then becomes directed against different joints. This damages joints and can cause inflammation, pain and deformity.
What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are pain, swelling, and inflammation of joints. Patients are also prone to bunion deformity, metatarsalgia and hammertoes.
How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?
Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed with medical history, thorough physical examination and imaging studies. X-rays will be ordered to evaluate for any bony abnormalities such as joint space narrowing and bone spurs. An MRI may also be ordered. Blood tests are often used to aid in the diagnosis and patient’s may be referred to a rheumatologist.
How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?
Nonsurgical treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis include medications (anti-inflammatories and medications specifically for rheumatoid arthritis), physical therapy, braces, cortisone injections and orthotics
Surgery can be necessary for rheumatoid arthritis when conservative measures fail. This can include arthroscopic surgery, bunion corrections, foot reconstruction, joint fusions and arthroplasty (joint replacement). Joint replacement may be recommended when the joint is severely damaged with the goal of restoring function and relieving pain at the ankle joint.