Find out what rheumatoid arthritis is, how it is diagnosed, and what treatments are available.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. They don't know exactly why, but your body's basically attacking your joints and causing damage. The damage that is done is irreversible. You can't go back, so it's really important to identify it early, and then get on a treatment. There's a lot of new treatments that are out that can actually halt the process and prevent the damage of the joints. Usually, the hand joints are affected, and the wrist can be affected. It's usually on both hands.
How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?
There's not just one test that we do. You have to take a full history from that patient. You could have rashes, different joint pain, and swelling that, combined with blood tests, get that diagnosis. There is a blood test for it, but about 10 to 15 percent of the population has a positive blood test, and that doesn't mean that they have rheumatoid arthritis. You have to combine the clinical history and the patient's symptoms with the blood work.
What treatments are available for rheumatoid arthritis?
For mild rheumatoid arthritis, anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen, and sometimes steroids, like prednisone, can help get it under control. Biological agents or DMARDs halt the process and stop your body from attacking itself but come with side effects. Usually a rheumatologist would be administering those medications, but there are a lot of different options available.