Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the most common autoimmune conditions, affecting around 1.3 million Americans today. It’s a disease where your body’s immune system becomes faulty and attacks its own tissues, particularly the synovial membranes that line the insides of your joints. As a result, you have pain, stiffness, and swelling in the affected joints.
Living with these day-to-day symptoms can be challenging. Unless they’re treated early, further complications of rheumatoid arthritis can develop with your nerves, eyes, lungs, and heart also succumbing to the attack by your faulty immune system.
Dr. Nathaniel Neal and Dr. Rebekah Neal-Kraal are rheumatologists here at Valerius Medical Group. They have many years of experience managing RA, and they can help you treat your condition to get it under control quickly.
Pain, swelling, and stiffness can be tricky to manage and were probably the first clues that you had an autoimmune condition, but rheumatoid arthritis can quickly progress after just a few months to more severe symptoms.
Your first clue that you have RA tends to be the telltale signs of swelling, warmth, and pain in your fingers and toes. These symptoms then progress to your other larger joints over time.
With the lining of your joints being constantly attacked and damaged by your immune system, it doesn’t take long for your joints to lose their ability to function. The painful swelling and tissue damage eventually causes erosion and deformity of the joint, which can lead to difficulty accomplishing daily tasks, like opening jars, bathing, and even walking. Some patients end up needing a wheelchair and the assistance of a caregiver to manage day-to-day tasks.
Although joint issues are the most common symptoms, this autoimmune condition can strike other areas of your body too. The active inflammation caused by untreated RA can affect your cardiovascular system, putting you at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Inflammation and scarring of your lung tissue can also occur, which can cause shortness of breath and other respiratory symptoms.
Dry eyes and mouth are not unusual, as rheumatoid arthritis can attack your salivary and tear glands too, making it much more likely that you’ll develop a condition known as Sjogren's syndrome. This is a disorder where the glands are unable to create enough moisture in your eyes and mouth, causing dryness, itching, and pain.
Not everyone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis will go on to develop the more severe symptoms and complications of the condition, but with early treatment, there’s a much higher chance of an improvement in current symptoms and achieving what we call “clinical remission.”
Clinical remission can mean all symptoms disappear, enabling you to return to your regular activities free from pain, stiffness, and swelling. For some people, it can mean the symptoms have gone for the most part, but there may be an occasional flare-up from time to time.
Our goal when treating RA is to create clinical remission from the condition and keep it there for as long as possible. We can achieve this through a range of medications, infusion therapy, and stress-reduction management techniques, as stress is known to trigger flare-ups of rheumatoid arthritis.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, get in touch with us today for an effective treatment plan that’ll significantly improve your symptoms and enable you to live a longer, happier, and healthier life. Call our office in Los Alamitos, California, or click the “request appointment” button to schedule online.