Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that affects nearly 1% of people worldwide, affecting more women than men. The etiology of RA is unknown; however, the hypothesis is that RA results from an environmental trigger in individuals who are genetically susceptible. It is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. RA is caused by inflammatory pathways leading to an increase in synovial cells in joints. The development of synovitis is followed by joint damage and structural bone damage. Patients with RA typically present with stiffness in multiple joints, the most common joint, metocarpophalangeal joints. Diagnosis of RA is made primarily based on clinical physical exam findings.
Signs & Symptoms
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Morning stiffness lasting >1 hour
- Systemic symptoms: fatigue, fever, weight loss
- Rheumatoid nodules
- Ulnar deviation of hands
- Autoimmune testing looking for presence of Rheumatoid factor
- Complete Blood Count
- Radiography of hands to look for periarticular erosive changes
Randomized control trials have lent support of physical exercise to improve quality of life and muscle strength in patients with RA.
- Decrease joint pain and swelling
- Prevent deformity (ulnar deviation) with splinting
- Maintain quality of life, both personal and work
[Rheumatoid Arthritis resources listed under References section]