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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common autoimmune diseases. Doctors and specialists at MaineHealth are available to diagnose and treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis, so that they can take the steps to improve their health and quality of life.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system is attacking its own tissues.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints or other supportive body structures, such as muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. It can affect any joint but is most common in the wrists and fingers.

Causes of rheumatoid arthritis

Like most autoimmune diseases, the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown; however it is believed that genes, environment, and hormones may play an important role. It occurs more often in women than men. Both adults and children can be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, but it often starts in middle age and is most common in older people.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may be non-specific, making it difficult to make a firm diagnosis in its early stages. It is important to talk with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Stiffness for a prolonged time in the morning

  • Muscle soreness

  • Loss of energy

  • Weakness

  • Low fevers

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis

Doctors use a combination of a physical examination, blood tests, and X-rays to confirm a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Some of these tests and screening methods include:

  • Elevated erythrocyte sedimentation

  • C-Reactive protein test (CRP)

  • Synovial fluid analysis

  • MRI and ultrasound scanning

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is individualized and dependent on the severity of symptoms. Doctors will use information from a complete examination to determine the best treatment program for patients. The goal of treatment is to decrease symptoms and improve functioning. Treatment methods include:

  • Joint injections

  • Physical therapy

  • Occupational therapy

  • Medications such as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Primary care is your first stop for healthcare

The primary care providers at MaineHealth have the compassion and skill to care for you and the entire family. They make your health and your family’s health the first priority.