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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers

Podiatrists, Foot & Ankle Surgeons located in Arlington, TX & Mansfield, TX

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disabling and painful condition caused by joint inflammation, and people with rheumatoid arthritis often face a range of other health problems as well. Living with the effects of rheumatoid arthritis can be challenging, but the expert team of podiatric surgeons at Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers, with two locations in Arlington and Mansfield, Texas, can help with effective therapies and surgical options. Call the practice today or book an appointment online.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Q & A

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune disorder, which means it’s a result of your immune system mistakenly attacking your own body. Doctors don’t know for sure yet why this happens to some people and not to others, although it’s likely that there’s a genetic predisposition.

In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, the tissue that lines the joints becomes inflamed, causing swelling and pain. Eventually, the cartilage and bone start to erode, and the joints begin to twist as the tendons and ligaments holding them stretch and weaken.

You’re more at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis if:

  • Other members of your family have rheumatoid arthritis
  • You’re female
  • You’re a smoker
  • You encounter certain kinds of dust in the environment
  • You’re overweight or obese

Rheumatoid arthritis can affect you at any age but your middle years are the most likely time for it to develop.

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

Typical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:

  • Tender, swollen joints
  • Heat in the joints
  • Stiffness in the joints, especially after inactivity

Smaller joints are usually the first affected, particularly those at the base of your fingers and toes. The symptoms gradually spread to other joints, and in some cases can cause severe disability.

In the early stages, rheumatoid arthritis can appear similar to osteoarthritis, but you may also experience a loss of appetite, fatigue, and fever. According to the Mayo Clinic, around 40% of patients have symptoms caused by inflammation of tissues other than the joints, and rheumatoid arthritis also makes you more susceptible to additional health problems, including:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Rheumatoid nodules
  • Sjogren's syndrome (dry eyes and mouth)
  • Infections
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Cardiac problems
  • Lung disease
  • Lymphoma (blood cancer)

If you experience any of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible to minimize the effects of the condition on your health.

How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?

There’s no definitive test for rheumatoid arthritis, and early signs of the disease are typical of many other conditions. You can have tests to see if your blood shows evidence of inflammatory processes, rheumatoid factors, or specific antibodies, but these are only indicators.

Your doctor assesses your symptoms and the physical signs, and usually orders diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI to confirm the diagnosis.

How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but the earlier you begin treatment, the more successful the outcomes are likely to be. Treatment options include:

  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • Biologic response modifiers, a newer class of DMARDs
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Corticosteroid medications

Physical therapy and regular exercise are essential in minimizing the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Even though you may not feel like moving, inactivity hastens the progress of the condition, so following your doctor’s advice on the best ways to remain active is vital.

In some cases, surgery may be advisable, and the team at Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers are experts at performing joint fusion and joint replacement surgery. For advice on how to manage your rheumatoid arthritis for a better quality of life, call the practice today or book an appointment online.