Arthritis can arise in many forms and can affect everyone – including children and adolescents. While the most commonly known form, osteoarthritis, is a degenerative disease that progresses as we age, many forms of inflammatory arthritis can affect people at any age.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic, inflammatory disease in which joint disease is center-stage, with a background of various manifestations. Systemic means that many parts of the body can be involved. Inflammatory means that the patient presents with redness, warmth, swelling, and functional limitation in the joints. This can lead to joint damage, a major focus of the newer therapies for RA.
This form of arthritis usually involves many joints throughout the body at the same time and is caused by a problem with the immune system attacking your own joints, resulting in joint inflammation. Arthritis caused by inflammation often results in pain and stiffness after periods of rest or inactivity, particularly in the morning. The swelling, redness, and warmth may be present in the affected joints, but other areas in the body can be affected by the inflammation as well, such as the eyes and the lining around the heart.
Rheumatoid arthritis is usually treated with a combination of medications to relieve swelling and pain while regulating the immune system. Joint surgery to relieve pain and disability, including joint replacement, may also be considered when these non-surgical methods have failed to provide lasting benefit.
With early detection and intervention, RA and other forms of inflammatory arthritis can be treated very effectively. The HSS Inflammatory Arthritis Center connects patients quickly and efficiently with a rheumatologist who can evaluate their joint pain and get each patient started on an appropriate course of treatment. Hospital for Special Surgery also offers specialized patient education and support programs for RA.