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Experienced Rheumatologists in Houston TX, Can Help You Live More Comfortably With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system – which normally attacks foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses – to mistakenly attack healthy joint tissue. Most often, rheumatoid arthritis affects the hands, wrists, elbows, hips, knees, ankles and feet. The arthritis is usually symmetrical, which means the same joints on both sides of the body are affected.

The precise causes of rheumatoid arthritis are unknown. Some experts believe that certain factors, such as stress, tobacco use and infection, may trigger the immune system to inadvertently target the joints.

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

When attacked by the immune system, a joint’s soft lining (synovial membrane) can become thickened and inflamed, leading to pain, swelling, warmth, redness and loss of joint function. If left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can ultimately damage the protective joint cartilage, which normally cushions the ends of the bones in the joint. As the cartilage breaks down and wears away, the unprotected bone surfaces may begin to erode as well, eventually changing the shape and structure of the joint.

How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?

As the rheumatoid arthritis progresses, once joint damage occurs, it cannot be reversed. Therefore, the main goals of treatment are to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, prevent joint damage, and enhance mobility. Some common strategies include:

  • Medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biologics and steroids
  • Physical therapy, which may include stretches, exercises, hot/cold therapy and therapeutic massage
  • Occupational therapy, which offers strategies on how to more easily perform daily tasks
  • Regular exercise to strengthen the muscles that support damaged joints
  • Joint replacement surgery
  • Early, aggressive treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is the key to achieving good results. If you have questions or would like to discuss your symptoms and treatment options with a rheumatologist, contact Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Houston, Texas, today.