Published on July 22nd, 2013 | by Tom


What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Arthritis has various types and the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is one of the common types. Here some basic knowledge of rheumatoid arthritis is introduced and several treatments are recommended.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis 

Rheumatoid arthritis is a more severe but less common form than Osteoarthritis (another type of arthritis) which can attack body’s immune system and destroy the affected joints. The immune system work abnormally to attack the normal joint tissues when people suffer from RA. For some patients, besides the joints, the eyes, blood, lungs and heart may be affected by RA. It’s really an ongoing and autoimmune disease that will cause inflammation of the joint lining, leading to pain, swelling, redness and stiffness and restricted movement.

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis occurs because of the disorder of immune system. But why the immune system starts its abnormal processing of attacking the normal joint tissues is not exactly clear. So the root cause of rheumatoid arthritis remains a mystery. Both genetic and environmental factors are suspected to be the influencing factors. There is evidence showing that RA run in families, so there may be genetic component contributing to the disease but the inheriting seems not definite. Environmental factors such as bacterial infection are suspected to be the trigger of the disease.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis 

  • Inflammatory joints. The nearby area of hands, shoulders, elbows, ankles may be affected
  • Swelling and pain in the areas around the affected joints
  • Feel stiffness after a long rest for more than 1 hour.
  • Restricted movement
  • Warm and tender joints

Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, so the goal of the treatment is to control the symptoms, such as reducing the inflammation, relieving pain, reducing disability. Here, some treatments that can get this result are recommend, hoping being useful for you.

Drug treatments

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are the most common prescribed and over-the-counter medicine for arthritis patients. Two types of NSAIDs-traditional NSAIDs and NSAIDs- are both useful for reducing pain and swelling in joints. Usually, NSAIDs are prescribed with another medicine such as a proton pump inhibitor to reducing the side-effects caused by NSAIDs.

Painkiller. The pain may be intolerable, so painkillers like paracetamol, Codeine may be necessary to help reducing the pain and controlling the symptoms.

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These are useful medicine for slowing the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and preventing joints and other tissues from permanent damage.

Steroids. Either being used as a tablet or an injection into the muscle, corticosteroids medicines work effective for pain, stiffness and swelling reducing. But long-term use of corticosteroids has serious side-effects, so they are usually used on a short-term basis.

Other medicines. Immunosuppressants medications, TNF-alpha inhibitors, anakinra, abatacept, rituximab are other options for you to help get the target of reducing inflammation or controlling the symptoms.

Side-effects of these medicines vary but may including severe abdominal pain, persistent dry cough, skin reaction and so on. You should know the side-effects of the medicine you choose or prescribed clearly before.

Non-drugs therapy

  • Do the exercises to keep your joints flexible.
  • Use heat or ice packs.
  • Try specially designed machine like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
  • Use splint to support your joints.
  • Use specially designed gripping and grabbing tools


You have to consider surgery if both drugs treatment and non-drugs therapy fail to prevent the joint damage. Surgery can help reduce pain and correct deformities.

Total joint replacement, finger and hand surgery, Arthroplasty, Arthroscopy, tendon repain, joint fusion are types of surgery that are common in Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment. According to your own situation, seek for a professional expert to help do the surgery to restore your ability to use your joint.

image via [nih]

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