Inflammation in a joint means arthritis. There is redness, warmth, swelling, and pain within the joint due to the inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects joints symmetrically on the body. RA can also affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, or nerves.
Watch out for RA if you experience these:
- Joint pain and swelling
- Stiffness, especially in the morning or after you sit for a long time
Rheumatoid arthritis affects everyone differently in terms of its chronologic sequence. Some people may have rheumatoid arthritis for a short time and then go into remission, which means they don’t have symptoms.
There is no single test that shows whether you have RA. Your doctor will give you a checkup, ask you about your symptoms, and possibly perform X-rays and blood tests.
Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed from a combination of things, including:
- The location and symmetry of painful joints, especially the hand joints
- Joint stiffness in the morning
- Bumps and nodules under the skin (rheumatoid nodules)
- Results of X-ray and blood tests
Rheumatoid factor may sometimes be present in people who do not have rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore, the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is based on a combination of joint problems, as well as test results.
Another blood test for rheumatoid arthritis is the cyclic citrulline antibody test (anti-CCP) that suggests a tendency toward a more aggressive form of rheumatoid arthritis.
People with rheumatoid arthritis show signs of inflammation in blood tests which are an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. They may also have mild anemia.
Since RA is an autoimmune disease, it can also be positive in an anitnuclear antibody test (ANA). ANA test is a test generally for autoimmune diseases.
Some of these drugs prevent or slow down the joint pain, swelling, and inflammation.
Drugs that ease joint pain, stiffness, and swelling include:
- Anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen
- Pain relievers that you put on your skin
- Corticosteroids, such as prednisone
- Narcotic pain relievers
There are also many strong medications called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which weakens the immune system’s attack on the joints. They include:
- Plaquenil (originally used to treat malaria)
- Immune suppression drugs, such as methotrexate, Imuran, and Cytoxan
- Biologic treatments, such as Actemra, Cimzia, Kineret, Simponi, Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, Orencia, and Rituxan
- Other drugs, such as Azulfidine, Arava, and Xeljanz