Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the immune system is attacking healthy tissue in your body – in this case the lining of the joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

RA affects the joints, most commonly in the hands and feet, causing inflammation, pain and swelling that can result in bone erosion and joint deformity. Unlike some other forms of arthritis, RA affects both sides of the body simultaneously.

We don’t yet know the precise cause of this disease, but there are risk factors, including family history, smoking and periodontal disease. RA is most common in those ages 40-60 and occurs more often in women than men.

There’s no single test to confirm the existence of RA. To make the diagnosis, your doctor will review your symptoms with you, perform a thorough physical examination and may recommend several types of tests, including: blood tests, x-rays, ultrasonography, and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

While there’s no cure, there are treatments to help manage RA, in many cases, even result in remission. Treatments available include:

  • Medications such as over-the-counter or prescription-strength anti-inflammatory drugs, short-term corticosteroid medications, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and a newer form of DMARDs that target the parts of the immune system causing inflammation
  • Physical therapy and occupational therapy
  • Surgery to relieve pain and repair or replace damaged joints

Dietary changes and specific types of exercise may also be recommended by your doctor.

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The Arthritis Center at BIDMC provides world-class care with
latest technologies to help patients with joint conditions.

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The Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology provides leading-edge, compassionate care to patients with rheumatic diseases and other disorders of the joints, muscles and ligaments.

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