Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that affects over 1.3 million Americans and nearly one percent of the worldwide population. But despite these staggering statistics, RA remains largely misunderstood. Fortunately, the highly experienced primary care doctors at Urgent & Primary Care in East Greenbush, NY, are here to answer your most pressing inquiries.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Your Questions Answered
1. What Are the Symptoms of RA?
As previously mentioned, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning it causes your immune system to mistakenly attack healthy cells. It mainly affects the joints in one’s hands, wrists, and knees, causing chronic pain, inflammation, and tissue damage. These symptoms typically fluctuate in severity depending on one’s stress levels, diet, and other factors. Individuals with RA may also experience other symptoms not directly related to joint pain including fever, weight loss, and fatigue.
2. What Causes RA?
The exact causes of rheumatoid arthritis are unknown. However, many factors can increase one’s risk of developing the disease. According to rheumatologists and primary care doctors alike, your likelihood of having RA increases as you age. Women are also two-to-three times more likely to have the disease than men. Researchers believe that genetics may play a role in RA too – specifically the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II genotypes – but more exploration is still necessary. Lastly, environmental factors like smoking and obesity increase the risk of RA as well as worsen symptoms in those who already have it.
3. How Is RA Diagnosed?
RA is a complex because it’s symptoms are not specific to the condition. Rather, it shares traits with other inflammatory joint diseases. Thus, rheumatologists must be thorough in their diagnosis.
During your first appointment, the professional will perform a series of lab tests and a physical examination to get a clear picture of your symptoms. They will also ask you about your family and medical history as well as perform a blood test to measure your inflammation levels. If – after all these tests – they ascertain that you have RA, they will then start treatment.
4. How Is RA Treated?
Rheumatoid arthritis is typically treated in two ways: medication and self-management strategies. The most common medications include disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and biological response modifiers. The former blocks inflammation and prevents joint deformities while the latter strengthens the body’s immune system, thus reducing tissue damage at its source.
RA self-management, on the other hand, includes staying active, eating a nutrient-rich diet, watching one’s weight, and visiting the doctor. Together, these strategies help reduce chronic pain and disability, so the patient can pursue the activities that are most important to them.
If these treatments don’t work, your rheumatologist may refer you to a physical or occupational therapist for additional treatment. In more severe cases, joint replacement surgery may also be necessary.
Whether you have rheumatoid arthritis or just want to learn more about it, Urgent & Primary Care is the practice to call. Based in East Greenbush, NY, Dr. Laxmikant Bhoiwala and his daughter Dr. Dipti Bhoiwala have been Albany’s leading primary care doctors for nearly 20 years. Call them at (518) 463-8262 to learn more. To browse their comprehensive health services, visit them online.