Rheumatoid arthritis -- causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an auto-immune disorder that primarily targets the joints but can affect other body parts as well. It causes pain and limits the function of your joints. There is joint swelling, redness, and stiffness. It affects various organs of the body. There may be associated fever, lymph nodes swelling, weight loss, tiredness, loss of appetite and poor sleep. The causes for the disease are still not completely known.

RA is diagnosed based on the symptoms, the inflamed joints affected and through blood and X-ray findings, MRI scan, CT scan, synovial fluid analysis and/or a urine test. There are no known cures. Oral medications are used to alleviate the symptoms and slow down the spread of the disease. Painkillers and steroids are used to treat the symptoms of arthritis. DMARDs (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) help suppress the underlying inflammatory disease. The newest and most advanced treatment option so far is the use of biologic drugs that target inflammatory proteins.

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