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Information on Rheumatoid Arthritis


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Information on Rheumatoid Arthritis

This page is pretty much always "under construction," as they say! Check back later ... in the meantime you may be interested in visiting the Arthritis Foundation's home page for plenty of information on rheumatoid arthritis and other forms.

And if you happen to live in Louisiana or know someone who does, please visit the website of the Arthritis Association of Louisiana, a nonprofit United Way agency that I helped to found in 2004 after the Arthritis Foundation closed its Louisiana chapter.

New: Arthritis Articles by Robin on Suite101.com

I am a PR practitioner and writer, producing corporate copy by day and working on personal projects like science fiction short stories and poetry by night. Lately I've been contributing articles to the online informational site Suite101.com on my three major areas of interest: PR/communications, cats, and arthritis/joint issues. The nifty widget below shows the latest three articles I've published on arthritis-related topics. Please check 'em out!

Visit the On Our Feet Joint Replacement Forum

About RA

The following information is taken from the Arthritis Foundation website and is offered for educational purposes only. Please visit your doctor if you think you have symptoms of arthritis.

Disease Process and Cause
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic disease that affects the entire body and is one of the most common forms of arthritis. It is characterized by the inflammation of the membrane lining the joint, which causes pain, stiffness, warmth, redness and swelling. The inflamed joint lining, the synovium, can invade and damage bone and cartilage. Inflammatory cells release enzymes that may digest bone and cartilage. The involved joint can lose its shape and alignment, resulting in pain and loss of movement. The disease usually begins in middle age, but can start at any age. It affects two to three times more women than men.

The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not yet known. However, it is known that RA is an autoimmune disease. The body's natural immune system does not operate as it should, resulting in the immune system attacking healthy joint tissue and causing inflammation and subsequent joint damage.

Researchers suspect that agent-like viruses may trigger RA in some people who have an inherited tendency for the disease. Many people with RA have a certain genetic marker called HLA-DR4. Researchers know that there are other genes that influence the development of RA.

Diagnosis of Disease
It is important to diagnose RA early in the course of the disease because with the use of disease-modifying drugs, the condition can be controlled in many cases. Physicians diagnose RA based on the overall pattern of symptoms, medical history, physical exam and lab tests including a test for rheumatoid factor. Rheumatoid factor is an antibody found in the blood of about 80 percent of adults with RA. However, the presence or absence of rheumatoid factor does not indicate that one has RA.

Early in the disease, people may notice general fatigue, soreness, stiffness and aching. Pain and swelling may occur in the same joints on both sides of the body and will usually start in the hands or feet. RA can also affect wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, knees, hips and ankles. Other features include lumps called rheumatoid nodules under the skin in areas that receive pressure, such as the back of the elbows.

Management of Disease
Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis focuses on reducing swelling, relieving pain and stiffness and maintaining normal joint function. In patients with RA, the early use of disease-modifying drugs may allow control of the disease. Disease-modifying drugs include low doses of prednisone, methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, azulfidine, gold salts and cyclosporine. Aspirin-like drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help reduce joint pain, stiffness and swelling. These drugs may be used in combination. In addition, treatment most often involves some combination of exercise, rest, joint protection and physical and occupational therapy. Surgery is available for joints that are damaged and painful. A balance of rest and exercise can help conserve energy and maintain range of motion and use of the joints.

Impact of Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Rheumatoid arthritis affects 2.1 million Americans, mostly women
  • Onset is usually in middle-age, but often occurs in the 20s and 30s
  • 1.5 million women have rheumatoid arthritis compared to 600,000 men
  • Musculoskeletal conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis cost the U.S. economy nearly $82 billion per year in medical care and indirect expenses such as lost wages and production

The Arthritis Foundation offers a free brochure about rheumatoid arthritis (as well as dozens of brochures on other topics). To request a copy, please see the ordering information below.

How the Arthritis Foundation Helps
The Arthritis Foundation offers a variety of programs that can help make life easier and less painful for people with arthritis. These services include:
  • Self-help courses
  • Water and land-based exercise classes
  • Support groups
  • Home-study courses
  • Instructional videotapes
  • Public forums
  • A wide variety of consumer educational brochures and booklets
  • The national, bimonthly consumer magazine Arthritis Today
  • Continuing education courses and publications for health professionals

For more information about arthritis, contact your local office of the Arthritis Foundation, or call (toll-free) the Arthritis Foundation Information Line, 800-283-7800. You can also write: Arthritis Foundation, P.O. Box 7669; Atlanta, GA 30357-0669 or order brochures on-line.

Links to More Info

The following list of links is varied and eclectic, but they all represent websites that have, in some way, helped me in living with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The Arthritis Alliance of Louisiana is a new, local group in the greater Baton Rouge area dedicated to providing programs and services to people with arthritis. I am a founding board member of the group.

  • The Arthritis Foundation. This website is so big and extensive that it's occasionally hard to find just what you're looking for. However, it is THE definitive site for trustworthy information on most forms of arthritis.

  • If you have arthritis or a similar autoimmune condition, you may want to check out an interesting site called RemedyFind that allows patients to rate their personal experiences with various treatments.

  • Another site started by a dynamic individual with arthritis is CreakyJoints, which approaches life with arthritis in a humorous and wry manner.

  • The Arthritis Resource Center

  • If you have a newsgroup reader on your computer, check out the supportive and informative postings on alt.support.arthritis.

  • Another informative page made by a fellow "average person" is the Psoriatic Arthritis Support Page for folks with PA.

  • This is a wonderful article from the Mayo Clinic on how to deal with arthritis in the workplace.

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