Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the joints. The inflammation can become so severe that the function and appearance of the hands are affected. Rheumatoid arthritis may cause deformities in the joints of the fingers, making movement difficult, and lumps, known as rheumatoid nodules, may form over small joints in the hands and wrist.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a form of arthritis in children ages 16 or younger that causes inflammation and stiffness of joints for more than 6 weeks. Unlike adult rheumatoid arthritis, which is chronic and lasts a lifetime, children often outgrow juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The disease can, however, affect bone development in a growing child.
The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, however it is an autoimmune disorder, which means the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. The response of the body causes inflammation in and around the joints, which may then lead to a destruction of the skeletal system. Rheumatoid arthritis may also have devastating effects on other organs, such as the heart and lungs. Researchers believe certain factors, including heredity, may contribute to the onset of the disease, which most often occurs between the ages of 20 and 45. Rheumatoid arthritis affects more women than men, with 75% of persons with rheumatoid arthritis being female.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may begin suddenly or gradually and most commonly affect the joints in the hands, wrists, feet, ankles, knees, shoulders and elbows. The disease typically causes symmetrical inflammation in the body, meaning the same joints are affected on both sides of the body. Though each individual may experience symptoms differently, the following are the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the hands:
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. If you experience 4 or more of the following symptoms, you may be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis:
Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis in its early stages can be difficult, because symptoms may be very subtle and go undetected in x-rays or blood tests. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, we use the following procedures to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis:
We will work with you to determine a specific treatment plan that’s right for you based on the following factors:
Your treatment may include:
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