Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic (long-term) disease. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can come and go, and each person with RA is affected differently. Some people have long periods of remission. Their rheumatoid arthritis is inactive, and they have few or no symptoms during this time. Other people might have near-constant rheumatoid arthritis symptoms for months at a stretch.
Although rheumatoid arthritis can involve different parts the body, joints are always affected. When the disease acts up, joints become inflamed. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection or other threats, but in rheumatoid arthritis inflammation occurs inappropriately and for unknown reasons.
Rheumatoid arthritis main symptoms include: fatigue; malaise (feeling ill); loss of appetite, which can lead to weight loss; muscle aches. These feelings have been compared to having the flu, although they are usually less intense and longer lasting.
Rheumatoid arthritis may affect other areas of your body. Involvement of multiple areas of the body occurs is more common with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid nodules are bumps under the skin that most often appear on the elbows. Sometimes they are painful. Lung involvement, due to either damage to the lungs or inflammation of the lining around the lungs, is common but usually causes no symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis can even affect a joint in your voice box or larynx (cricoarytenoid joint), causing hoarseness. It can cause inflammation in the lining around the heart and the eyes [when the eyes are affected, symptoms can include red, painful eyes or possibly dry eyes].
Arthritis of the Knee
There are three basic types of arthritis that may affect the knee joint:
Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of knee arthritis. OA is usually a slowly progressive degenerative disease in which the joint cartilage gradually wears away. It most often affects middle-aged and older people. Sometimes called degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic condition of the joints. Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by aging joints, injury, and/or obesity. OA symptoms include joint pain and stiffness. Treatment depends on the affected joint, including the hand, wrist, neck, back, knee, and hip.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory type of arthritis that can destroy the joint cartilage. RA can occur at any age. RA generally affects both knees. Post-traumatic Arthritis: Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the knee. This type of arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis and may develop years after a fracture, ligament injury, or meniscus tear.
If you have osteoarthritis of the knee, you can take advantage of a wide range of treatment options. The effectiveness of different treatments varies from person to person. The purpose of treatment is to reduce pain, increase function and generally reduce your symptoms. Patient satisfaction is a fundamental goal in treating osteoarthritis of the knee.
In its early stages, arthritis of the knee is helped by lifestyle modifications and exercise. Lifestyle modifications can include losing weight, switching from running or jumping exercises to swimming or cycling, and minimizing activities that aggravate the condition, such as climbing stairs. Many, but not all, people with osteoarthritis of the knee are overweight. Simple weight loss can reduce stress on weight bearing joints, such as the knee. Losing weight can result in reduced pain and increased function, particularly in walking.
Exercise can help increase range of motion and flexibility as well as help strengthen the muscles in the leg. Regular exercise can decrease stiffness and strengthen the muscles that support your knee. Patients who have patellofemoral arthritis should try to avoid activities that put stress on the front of the knee, such as squatting. If you regularly do high-impact exercise, switching to low-impact activities will put less stress on your knee. Walking and swimming are good low-impact options.