Rhuematoid Arthritis, or RA, is a systemic inflammatory disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling and loss of motion in the joints. It is an autoimmune disease, in which a person's immune system attacks his or her own body tissue. In RA, the immune system attacks the synovium, which is the tissue that lines the joints, causing inflammation in and overgrowth of this tissue.
The symptoms of RA vary from person to person, but include tender, warm, swollen joints; often first noticed in the feet and hands. Stiffness is worse in the morning and takes about an hour to "warm up". Sleepiness, an overwhelming tired feeling, and even a low grade fever can develop with the joint symptoms. Soft lumps called rheumatoid nodules can also occur.
Diagnosis should be made by a rheumatologist who is specially trained on the signs and symptoms and knowledgeable about the latest treament. Your podiatrist should be part of the treatment team, not the one who diagnoses this disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis is treated with a combination of therapies that include:
- Lifestyles modifications: exercise, stress reduction, and healthy eating.
- Medications: anti-inflammatories and steroids.
- Physical therapy: Joint manipulation and mobilization as well as core strengthening.
- Surgery: Sometimes needed to repair or replace the joints.
A foot and ankle surgeon can help with orthotics, injections, physical therapy and surgery if needed.
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but your podiatrist can help you live with this disease more comfortably. Call or contact the office today if you are living with the symptoms of RA.