Overactive immune system leads to rheumatoid arthritis
Arthritis, which means swelling of the joints, affects millions of people in the United States. However, not all arthritis is the same. For example, while osteoarthritis is the result of wear and tear over years of using your joints, rheumatoid arthritis develops very differently.
Sometimes your body’s immune system can attack its own healthy cells and tissues with no known cause. When your immune system attacks the tissues of your joints, it leads to rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder. Rheumatoid arthritis most often affects your hands and wrists.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain and swelling
Rheumatoid arthritis often begins between ages 30 and 50. Symptoms may appear very quickly or build up over time, and include:
- Pain, stiffness and swelling in your joints
- Losing the ability to move or grasp items
- Bumps over joints in your wrists and hands
Combination of treatments improves rheumatoid arthritis pain
While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, a combination of treatments can help reduce your pain and swelling and help you better use your joints. Your doctor may suggest one or more of the following treatments depending on your individual health and condition:
- Pain relievers – Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, can help relieve pain and swelling in your joints. Your doctor can also prescribe stronger pain medicines.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs – Many different medicines help reduce swelling in your joints. Corticosteroids are a common way to reduce inflammation. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and biologic agents help slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and shut down the part of your immune system that can cause swelling in your joints.
- Physical therapy – Physical therapists create exercise plans that help you keep the use of your joints. They also teach you new ways to move that reduce pain and provide assistive devices that make everyday tasks less painful.
- Surgery – Surgery to replace your damaged joints, fix hurt tendons or fuse joints together can help relieve pain and improve how well you move. Talk to your doctor about the specific risks and benefits of different surgeries to find out if they are a good option for you.