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Do You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis? Why you shouldn’t wait to seek medical care

Courtesy of Florida Medical Clinic

Do You Have Rheumatoid ArthritisPainful aching joints and a general feeling of being unwell are often the first signs of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Affecting nearly 1.5 million Americans between the ages of 30 and 70, it is estimated that 3 times as many women than men are diagnosed with the disorder.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, and like all other autoimmune related conditions, it causes the cells in the body to attack itself. In the case of RA, it causes the body to attack its joints. The synovial fluid that lines the bones of the joints is the first to become inflamed and it deteriorates. As the disease progresses, especially if left untreated, it can degenerate the cartilage and then the bone of the joints. Individuals with RA have severe stiffness, and mobility issues from the disorder and their joints may begin to look deformed as RA advances.

Typically, rheumatoid arthritis is symmetrical, meaning that if the right index finger is affected, the left index finger will also be affected, or if the right ankle has RA, so will the left ankle. They may not both be as severe as each other, but there will be marked stiffness and inflammation on both sides of the body.

Symptoms of RA
RA can be difficult to diagnose at first since it mimics many other disorders. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are as follows: In the early stages, people with RA may not initially see redness or swelling in the joints, but they may experience tenderness and pain.

These following joint symptoms are clues to RA:
• Joint pain, tenderness, swelling or stiffness for six weeks or longer
• Morning stiffness for 30 minutes or longer
• More than one joint is affected
• Small joints (wrists, certain joints of the hands and feet) are affected
• The same joints on both sides of the body are affected

Along with pain, many people experience fatigue, loss of appetite and a low-grade fever. The symptoms and effects of RA may come and go. A period of high disease activity (increases in inflammation and other symptoms) is called a flare. A flare can last for days or months. Ongoing high levels of inflammation can cause problems throughout the body.

Here of some ways RA can affect organs and body systems:
• Eyes—Dryness, pain, redness, sensitivity to light and impaired vision
• Mouth—Dryness and gum irritation or infection
• Skin—Rheumatoid nodules – small lumps under the skin over bony areas
• Lungs—Inflammation and scarring that can lead to shortness of breath
• Blood Vessels—Inflammation of blood vessels that can lead to damage in the nerves, skin and other organs
• Blood—Anemia, a lower than normal number of red blood cells (1)

Diagnosing RA
High levels of ESR, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and elevated levels of CRP, C-reactive protein, can be a signal that RA is causing the inflammation in the joints. Other tests can pinpoint rheumatoid factors in the blood, but they’re not always accurate. X-rays and MRI’s allow physicians to see the severity of the disease and to track its progression once diagnosed.

Treatment
Unfortunately, there is no cure for RA, but many drugs are available to alleviate symptoms and stave off the disorders advancements throughout the body. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic agents, which are a new class of DMARDs have proven highly effective at warding off the progression of the disease. These drugs target the immune system to prevent the inflammatory response and attack of the joints. Joint surgeries can also help if the joints are severely deformed, diseased, or immobile.

What can you do?
Heat and cold therapy is something you can do at home to manage your disease and discomfort. Self-massage is helpful, as well as exercising and stretching. Eating a nutritious diet, especially one that includes fish oils, vegetables, fruit and lean protein can help your body fight off flare-ups and infections.

Florida Medical Clinic’s Rheumatology Experts:

Alicia Fierro, D.O.
Board-Certified Rheumatologist

Special Interests
• Lupus
• Osteoporosis
• Pregnancy and rheumatic disease
• Rheumatoid Arthritis
• Scleroderma

Board Certifications
• American Board of Internal Medicine
• American Board of Rheumatology

David Rivera, M.D.
Board-Certified Rheumatologist
(el habla español)

Special Interests
• Scleroderma
• Rheumatoid Arthritis
• Psoriatic Arthritis

Board Certifications
• American Board of Internal Medicine
• Internal Medicine
• American Board of Rheumatology

Florida Medical Clinic offers, expedient appointment scheduling, short wait times, a caring and responsive staff, and for your convenience, labs and imaging are available in the office.

To schedule your appointment today, please call 813-782-1234.

www.FloridaMedicalClinic.com

References:
1. “Rheumatoid Arthritis.” About Arthritis,Arthritis Foundation,
arthritis.org, 2018

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