Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Joint pain and swelling - this is usually worst in the morning and tends to improve as you move around.
  • Joint stiffness - again, this often improves once you start moving around.
  • Warmth and redness - the lining of the affected joint becomes inflamed, leaving the skin over the joint warm, red and swollen.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Generally feeling unwell.
  • Skin nodules - one in four people with rheumatoid arthritis develop lumps under their skin, known as rheumatoid nodules. These commonly occur on the skin over the elbows and forearms, and are usually painless.
  • Anaemia - this is a condition where the blood is unable to carry enough oxygen, due to a low number of red blood cells. It often leaves you feeling tired and lethargic. Eight out of ten people with rheumatoid arthritis are anaemic.

Unlike osteoarthritis, which only affects the bones and joints, rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation in other parts of your body. The condition can also cause inflammation of your tear glands, salivary glands, the lining of your heart and lungs, and your blood vessels.

Treating rheumatoid arthritis
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis but there are many medicines, therapies, procedures and lifestyle changes that can greatly improve your symptoms. The aims of treatment are to:
  • reduce pain and stiffness in affected joints as much as possible,
  • prevent joint damage, and
  • minimise any disability caused by pain, joint damage or deformity

If you have had inflamed joints for more than six weeks and your GP suspects you have rheumatoid arthritis, you will be referred to a specialist rheumatologist (a doctor who deals specifically with arthritis). This is so the diagnosis can be confirmed and most appropriate treatment started as soon as possible.

Many different medicines are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Some aim to relieve symptoms and others help to slow the progression of the condition.



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