Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a condition that affects over 2 million Americans. Unlike Osteoarthritis, which is usually associated with the wear and tear of aging, RA is an autoimmune disease that can affect people at any age. Women are more susceptible to Rheumatoid Arthritis and are twice as likely to be affected with the condition than men.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is the result of the body’s own defenses attacking joint tissue. Although medical science has not determined a direct cause of RA, the condition appears to be genetically triggered. If left untreated, the condition can become debilitating, resulting in a serious decrease in quality of life.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a progressive disease, and its symptoms are separated into recognized ‘stages’. The first stage is characterized by pain and swelling of the affected joints. The second stage is associated by a thickening of the lining of the affected joint, resulting in an increase in swelling and pain. In the third and final stage of the condition, serious debilitation can occur, as the inflamed cells of the joint lining release enzymes that attack the bones and cartilage.
Severe RA, if left untreated, can result in deformity and contractures as the disease erodes the articular cartilage of the joint. The disease typically affects more than one joint in a symmetrical pattern. RA can affect almost any joint, including the hands, feet, ankles, spine, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and even the jaw.
There is currently no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis; however, the symptoms of the condition can be treated through a number of different methods, resulting in a decrease in pain and an increase in joint function. Treatment methods depend on the severity and progress of the disease, as well as its level of impact on the joints. Non-surgical treatments include medication and physical therapy programs, and these more conservative treatments are preferable. If chronic pain and loss of function caused by the disease persists, total joint replacement surgery may be indicated to remove the damaged joint tissue, relieve the pain and restore normal function.
With advancements in surgical techniques, joints affected by severe Rheumatoid Arthritis can be replaced through minimally invasive methods. While any surgical joint replacement will result in the cessation of chronic pain and loss of joint function associated with RA, these minimally invasive methods include the added benefits of reduced scarring and blood loss, as well as a reduced recovery period necessary after surgery.
Dr. Steven Harwin understands the debilitating effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis. His years of clinical and research experience give him an extensive background in determining the best option for treating RA to maintain or restore the quality of life of his patients. For an evaluation with Dr. Harwin of your joint pain, call his New York City office to schedule an appointment.
By Dr. Steven Harwin