One of the most important things you can do for rheumatoid arthritis is to seek treatment as soon as possible. Early treatment increases your odds of stopping or slowing down progressive joint damage. David Shaskey, MD, at Millcreek Rheumatology specializes in rheumatoid arthritis and offers today’s most advanced treatments that can put the disease into remission. At the first signs of joint tenderness or stiffness, call the office in Salt Lake City, Utah, or schedule an appointment online.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Normally, your immune system eliminates bacteria, viruses, and other harmful substances that make you sick. But when you have an autoimmune condition, your immune system identifies part of your body as a danger and attacks those tissues.
In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system specifically targets the synovium, a tissue that lines your joints. As a result, the lining becomes inflamed. Without prompt treatment, ongoing inflammation gradually erodes the joint, leading to deformities.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually begins in the small joints of your fingers, wrists, toes, and feet. One of the hallmark signs of this condition is that it typically affects the same joints on both sides of your body. Over time, the inflammation can spread to other joints and throughout your body.
You may feel drained of energy and notice joint tenderness and warmth before the classic symptoms of swelling, pain, and stiffness develop. Most people experience stiffness that’s worse when they get up in the morning. Morning stiffness usually lasts 1-2 hours or longer.
About 40% of people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis develop symptoms in other parts of their body as the inflammation spreads.
A few examples include:
Untreated rheumatoid arthritis may cause problems with your kidneys, nerves, salivary glands, and bone marrow.
Medications called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can relieve your symptoms, and they slow down or stop the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.
The sooner you start taking DMARDs, the better your chances are of putting the disease in remission and preventing extensive joint damage.
Dr. Shaskey may also prescribe other anti-inflammatory medications. People with advanced rheumatoid arthritis may need biologic medications. These treatments prevent inflammation by targeting the immune system.
Exercise is also an important part of your ongoing treatment. Engaging in a regular exercise program can reduce your pain, support joint movement, and help you fight fatigue. But it’s also important to balance your activity and scale back when your rheumatoid arthritis flares up.
If you need ongoing management for rheumatoid arthritis, call Millcreek Rheumatology or book an appointment online today.