A successful treatment for rheumatoid arthritis involves a close ongoing working relationship between you and your doctor, and possibly an occupational and/or physical therapist.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an auto-immune disease that causes progressive chronic inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. This chronic inflammation damages the joints and surrounding tissues, which results in decreased mobility and possibly deformity. The etiology is unknown. It is thought to be genetically inherited, and can affect people of all ages. RA can not be cured, but early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve the outcome.
Symptoms may come and go, but the underlying disease process is always present. Whenever it is active, or flared up, individuals may experience a number of symptoms including: low-grade fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, along with muscle and joint aches. The joints can become swollen, red, and painful, making simple everyday tasks difficult or nearly impossible.
Treatment is individualized. There are several factors that need to be considered before and effective treatment plan can be put into place. Severity of the disease, types of joints and tissues involved, your age, occupation, and overall health are just a few examples of things that need to be considered by your health care provider.
Early and aggressive management and treatment are the key ingredients necessary to stop damage of the joints and increase their function and mobility.
Two general classifications of medications are used when treating rheumatoid arthritis. There is the fast acting, often referred to as the first line medicines, which are used to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation, and the slow acting, or second line medicines, which promote disease remission and help prevent further progressive joint destruction. These drugs may be used alone, or in combination, depending on the severity of RA present.
In addition to medications, regular physical exercise is necessary. This is effective in relieving stiffness, and strengthens the muscles around the joints for improved motility. Swimming is an excellent exercise for people with RA because it strengthens the muscles with minimal stress on the joints. An occupational or physical therapist can recommend specialized exercises that will also be greatly beneficial.
Overall, early diagnosis, aggressive treatment and management, along with a close working relationship with your health care team will provide you with the best outcome.