Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is rheumatoid arthritis? 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's natural immune system attacks the lining of joints (known as the synovial membrane). This can become very painful, and causes constant swelling that may eventually damage the joint's cartilage and bone, and weaken the soft tissue around the joint, which prevents the joint from working properly.

There is currently no cure for RA. However, treatment has improved dramatically over the past 20 years, and new medicines are very effective for people with the early stages of RA1.

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis? 

The symptoms of RA vary from person to person, but the most common are:

  • Joint pain, swelling, and tenderness to touch
  • Stiffness in the joints, especially in the morning
  • Stiffness and pain in the same joints on both sides of the body2.

RA may progress slowly, and sometimes produce ‘flare-ups’ of these symptoms – or at times go into remission, where symptoms are far less noticeable or disappear altogether for a while. Unfortunately, RA never seems to go away completely.

The exact causes of causes of RA remain unclear, but the condition is more common among smokers and people with a family history of RA3.

How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?

To diagnose you accurately and offer the right treatment, your doctor will consider your symptoms and medical history, examine your joints, and arrange one or more diagnostic tests. For example, he or she may suggest blood tests, X-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI scan, to get a clear view of your joint alignment and general condition.

If rheumatoid arthritis is a possibility, your GP may refer you to a rheumatologist – a doctor that specialises in inflammatory diseases like RA. They will recommend treatment options based on the severity of your RA, and its impact on your joints and your body as a whole. Although there is no cure yet for RA, it is possible to control it with new drugs, exercise, and techniques for joint protection.

  • Pain relief – your doctor may need to try several different treatments to find the one that’s right for you. Pain relief medication can include:

o   non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

o   corticosteroid medicines or injections

o   disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

o    biological DMARDs, such as tumour necrosis factor (TNF) medicines4.

  •  Exercise – this can help keep joints flexible and muscles strong. Your doctor may consult or recommend a physiotherapist to help you find the best exercise regime for your condition.
  • A surgical procedure or joint replacement surgery, if your RA symptoms and pain levels are no longer controlled with other therapies.

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment option for you.

References
1, 2, 3, 4   “Arthritis Information Sheet: Rheumatoid arthritis”, Arthritis Australia website http://www.arthritisaustralia.com.au/images/stories/documents/info_sheets/2012/Rheumatoid_arthritis.pdf , accessed November 2012

What causes hip pain?

What causes hip pain?

Hip pain is sometimes caused by deformity or injury, but one of the most common causes is osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD). Although affected by things like age, weight, joint function and general activity levels, arthritis in the hip is basically the result of your hip’s cartilage lining wearing away slowly over time, and the bones beginning to rub against each other. This causes friction, swelling, pain, stiffness, and instability.

How does arthritis affect the hip?

Arthritis is one of the most common causes of joint disorders, and is the major cause of disability and chronic pain in Australia, affecting 3.85 million Australians1.  And as the average age rises, the number of people with arthritis is also growing. In fact, leading researcher Access Economics suggests 7 million Australians will suffer some form of arthritis by 2050, based on current trends2.

See how arthritis affects the hip in this video:

What can you do about hip pain?

There are many ways to help relieve your pain

The causes of hip pain include:

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What causes knee pain?

What causes knee pain?

Usually, knee pain and loss of mobility is caused by the joint's cartilage lining wearing away. When this happens, the bones rub directly against each other, causing pain and swelling. One of the most common causes is osteoarthritis (OA), which often happens following trauma or direct injury to the knee. Without cartilage, there’s no ‘shock absorber’ between the bones in the joint, so stress builds up in the bones and causes pain and discomfort.

How does arthritis affect the knee?

Arthritis is one of the most common causes of joint disorders, and is a major cause of disability and chronic pain in Australia, affecting around 3.85 million people 1. And as the average age rises, the number of people with arthritis is also growing. In fact, leading researcher Access Economics suggests 7 million Australians will suffer some form of arthritis by 2050, based on current trends2.  

Watch this short video to learn how arthritis can affect your knee.

You don't have to live with knee pain

There are many ways to treat and help relieve pain

References
1, 2     Painful realities: The economic impact of arthritis in Australia 2007 (REPORT BY ACCESS ECONOMICS PTY LIMITED FOR ARTHRITIS AUSTRALIA 31 JULY 2007)

The causes of knee pain include:

Next Steps

Contact your GP or health professional to discuss your options