September is Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month
Have you suffered from symptoms like joint pain, stiffness, or fatigue? You may be experiencing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). September is Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month. Now is the time to learn about rheumatoid arthritis symptoms so that treatment can begin in the condition’s earliest stages.
At the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Treatment Center in Jacksonville, Florida, our main priority is relieving your joint pain so you can get back to doing the things you love. We prioritize finding the arthritis treatment plan that is right for you.
If you still have questions about RA, take our quiz below. This can help you determine if a consultation with an arthritis doctor, also known as a rheumatologist, could help.
The Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are over 100 different forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common. It occurs over time through daily wear and tear on your joints, as the spongy cartilage that caps your bones breaks down. This is what causes aches and pains. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. For patients with RA, the immune system attacks the joints like it would a virus.
Both forms of arthritis can have very similar symptoms, but they require different treatments. That’s why it’s important to visit an experienced rheumatologist for the proper diagnosis and treatment when symptoms of rheumatic disease begin.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms in the Four Stages
The four stages of rheumatoid arthritis include synovitis, pannus, fibrous ankylosis, and bony ankylosis. Symptoms and treatment options vary as the condition progresses.
Stage One: Synovitis
In the early stage, patients may experience joint pain, stiffness, or swelling. This is caused by the body mistakenly attacking its own joint tissue.
Stage Two: Pannus
In this moderate stage, inflammation begins to damage joint cartilage. This results in loss of mobility and range of motion for patients.
Stage Three: Fibrous Ankylosis
In addition to cartilage damage, patients begin experiencing bone damage. Pain and swelling increases during this stage and some deformities may be observed.
Stage Four: Bony Ankylosis
End-stage RA occurs when the joints no longer work. Inflammation is no longer present, and the joints are typically destroyed. This results in severe pain, swelling, mobility loss and more. Patients’ bones ultimately become fused together.
How Do You Test for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The best way to make a diagnosis is by detailed history and a thorough physical examination by an experienced rheumatologist. Blood tests and imaging tests are also helpful in supporting the diagnosis. Imaging tests like X-rays and MRIs can help rheumatologists with diagnosis because they examine soft tissue, cartilage, and bones that may be exhibiting RA signs.
Blood tests look for markers for inflammation and specific antibodies. Around 30 percent of patients have normal blood test results yet still can have a form of rheumatoid arthritis called Seronegative Rheumatoid arthritis. That can only be diagnosed by an experienced rheumatologist during a thorough physical examination.
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Be Cured?
Although there is no guaranteed cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are many early treatment options that can reduce permanent joint damage and the overall impact of the condition. These treatments are called disease-modifying agents and Biologics. Biologics can be given by subcutaneous injections or through intravenous infusions.
Other arthritis treatment options include arthritis IV infusion therapy, medication and changes in lifestyle or diet. Incorporating diet changes and exercise into your daily routine is a great way to prevent joint pain and damage in the future.
Schedule an Appointment at our Orange Park Office in Jacksonville, Florida
If you are experiencing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, treatment is just a step away with the rheumatology experts at AOTC. Meet with an arthritis doctor who will invest in your care to ensure we arrive at an accurate diagnosis. We will help you find pain relief so you can get back to doing the things you love, pain-free. Make an appointment today.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Self-Evaluation Quiz
Still not sure if an appointment with an arthritis doctor is right for you? Answer these questions to find out if it’s time to discuss your symptoms and treatment options with a rheumatologist.