Rheumatoid arthritis treatment

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What is RA?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune condition caused by the immune system attacking joint linings which are known as synovium. The attached synovia become thicker, resulting in joint inflammation and pain. This is an important difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Osteoarthritis is caused by “wear and tear” whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body is attacking itself. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects multiple joints and occurs on both sides of the body, whereas osteoarthritis may affect only one knee or elbow, for example. Rheumatoid arthritis can even cause serious problems in the eyes, heart or lungs. It usually develops in middle age and affects more women than men.

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Symptoms and causes

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition, meaning it never fully goes away. However, its symptoms can be managed. Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint inflammation and pain and sometimes a low-grade fever, loss of appetite, anemia or fatigue. Hands and feet are commonly affected, and they may become swollen or reddened in addition to stiff and painful.


Early signs of rheumatoid arthritis include morning stiffness, numbness or tingling, and a decreased range of motion in some joints. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects multiple joints on both sides of the body and can create problems in the eyes, heart or lungs. Symptoms usually come and go - known as flares and then periods of remission, where the patient is symptom-free.

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Rheumatoid arthritis is typically treated through a combination of diet, rest, exercise, topical products and supplements. Dietary changes that may be helpful include increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from foods such as fatty fish, chia and flax seeds and walnuts, increased Vitamin A, C and E (antioxidants) intake from foods such as berries, spinach, kidney beans and pecans, and getting enough fiber from whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.


Rest, exercise and hot and cold compresses can also relieve symptoms. Analgesics such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin, as well as some stronger prescription treatments, are also commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

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FAQs about rheumatoid arthritis

Is rheumatoid arthritis hereditary?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects the membranes lining the joints. While studies show certain genes can be a direct cause for other autoimmune diseases, RA is not classified as an inherited disorder. It is a chronic disease presenting intense symptoms as well as periods of symptom relief, which makes it more difficult to determine your risks based on your family’s medical history. Other triggers can cause the onset of the disease such as viral or bacterial infections, stress, trauma, hormones or smoking. The condition can affect other areas such as the eyes, lungs, and heart.

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis generally causes joint inflammation and pain when the immune system attacks the body's tissues and joint lining. This results in painful swelling, bone erosion and joint abnormalities. Common symptoms include tenderness and swollen joints with associated stiffness, fatigue, fever or appetite loss. The early onset typically begins in smaller joints such as the fingers and toes and can spread to areas as the disease progresses. In some cases, symptoms don’t involve the joints and can also affect other areas of the body such as the skin, eyes, internal organs, nerve tissue, blood vessels, and bone marrow.

How to cure rheumatoid arthritis permanently?

While there is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, medical studies show that it’s possible to alleviate symptoms through early detection and employing the use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. Medications will be recommended by your doctor depending on the degree of symptoms and the length of time that the condition has been present. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs help reduce pain and inflammation but may come with side-effects involving stomach, heart or kidney problems. Steroids have also shown to effectively ease inflammation and pain and slow down joint damage. Unfortunately, there are also potential side effects causing the thinning of bones or diabetes.

Can I claim disability allowance for rheumatoid arthritis?

The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefit for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis who are aged 16 and over. You can claim PIP even if you are working as it is intended to supplement your income even if you are claiming other benefits or tax credits. You don’t need to have a carer to qualify for PIP and it can be used to help with daily life and mobility. The PIP rate depends on the assessment of your condition being limited or severely limited and results in a point scoring over 12 activities. This assesses your capability for daily tasks, communication and movement.

Can you have osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are common types of arthritis with distinctive similarities and differences. But it is possible to have both conditions simultaneously. While Osteoarthritis does not cause RA, RA can cause secondary osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can stem from a joint injury that can lead to osteoarthritis. Your knee could be affected by rheumatoid arthritis, but the spine could present degenerative changes that support the diagnosis of osteoarthritis. RA is a disease affecting the immune system and joints, it can damage the cartilage, making you more susceptible to getting Osteoarthritis.

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