More than 1 million Americans are living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic autoimmune condition that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. It’s a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time.
If you experience joint pain, it’s best to schedule an evaluation, as it may be a sign of a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis. Board-certified rheumatologist Barbara Kage, MD, FACR, at Rheumatology and Allergy Institute of Connecticut specializes in the diagnosis and management of RA.
With RA, your immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of your joints, causing chronic inflammation that damages the cartilage and bone, leading to stiffness and swelling. RA can affect any joint in your body, but it most commonly affects the joints in your hands, wrists, feet, knees, and hips.
The symptoms of RA can vary from person to person, but they often include:
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor to get a proper diagnosis and get effective treatment. RA is a treatable condition, but early diagnosis is important to prevent further damage to your joints.
Joint pain can lead to other problems. If you have joint pain, you may find it difficult to move the affected joint. This can lead to muscle weakness and stiffness.
Muscle weakness can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as climbing stairs or carrying groceries. Stiffness can also make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning or to get dressed.
Additionally, joint pain can impact your quality of life. If you’re in pain, you may find it difficult to sleep, work, or enjoy your regular activities. Joint pain can also lead to depression and anxiety.
Don’t put off having your joint pain evaluated. Dr. Kage may order blood tests or imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, to help make a diagnosis.
While there’s no cure for RA, available treatments can help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Treatment for RA usually includes a combination of medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.
There are a number of medications that can treat RA. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biologic drugs, such as adalimumab (Humira).
Physical therapy can help improve your range of motion and reduce pain. Your physical therapist guides you through exercises that you can do to improve and maintain your joint function.
There are a number of lifestyle changes that you can make to help manage your RA. These include:
Making these lifestyle changes can be just as beneficial as medication in managing the symptoms of RA.
You don’t have to live with chronic joint pain. If you’re dealing with sore or swollen joints that aren’t getting better on their own, it’s time to get some help.
To schedule a joint pain evaluation with Dr. Kage at Rheumatology and Allergy Institute of Connecticut, call 860-288-1015 and our scheduling coordinator will be happy to assist you.