WHAT IS THE OUTLOOK?
Prompt, appropriate treatment usually greatly relieves symptoms and improves function. Activity need not be permanently limited if control of the disease is maintained through the many techniques now available to your physician. Researchers are constantly striving for additional means of controlling the disease, a cure.
RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS: THE INFLAMMATORY DISEASE
Rheumatoid arthritis usually begins slowly but sometimes comes on suddenly. Symptoms may appear, go away, and return again. While it is a systemic disease of inflammation, the most noticeable symptoms are vaguely or acutely sore joints of the hands and feet. The inflammation also affects the connective tissues throughout the body, which may contribute to a sick all over feeling. Rheumatoid arthritis begins with inflammation in the synovial membrane, a thin tissue that lines the capsule surrounding the joint. Inflammation of the synovial membrane may spread to other parts of the joint.Inflamed tissue may grow into the cartilage surroundings the bone ends, causing it to deteriorate. When the cartilage disintegrates, scar tissue forms between the bone ends. Sometimes the scar tissue solidifies into bones, fusing the joint, making it rigid and difficult to move.
HOW DOES RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS FEEL?
Different people have different symptoms, but characteristically pain and stiffness occur in the morning and subside during the day. If you have this disease, getting up in the morning may be the hardest part of the day for you. While a few minutes of stiffness in the morning may be normal, people with inflammation due to rheumatoid arthritis are frequently stiff for one or two hours.Usually more than one joint is affected by rheumatoid arthritis. As the joints stiffen, swelling and tenderness become more apparent.Full motion becomes painful and difficult. When rheumatoid arthritis affects the hands, the fingers may become deformed and everyday takes become difficult to perform. The pain may become more severe with strenuous activity.Because rheumatoid arthritis often affects connective tissues throughout the body, there may be fever, poor appetite, weight loss,and anemia. The spleen and lymph glands may become enlarged. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the possibilities of dangerous and crippling effects.