Much too frequently, rheumatologists see patients with rheumatoid arthritis who have unfortunately gone through multiple orthopedic surgical interventions, when all along their underlying disease was an inflammatory, autoimmune mediated arthritis called rheumatoid arthritis.
Surgical interventions such as fusions are not necessary when the culprit is an immune system mediated attack on the joints of the body.In these instances, medications called rheumatic disease modifiers are used to help stop the immune system attack, and rescue the victims from this attack on their joints.
Patients with inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis typically have prolonged stiffness in their joints in the morning hours, which somewhat improves with moving around, but not always. Sometimes, joints become swollen and tender. Patients complain that moving their wrists and/or making a fist becomes painful.
Studies suggest initiating appropriate medical therapy for rheumatoid arthritis, in the first several months of the disease, shows the best promise with regards to minimizing any potential joint damage and irreversible long-term deformities.
It also improves chances of going into long-term remission. Any symmetric, new onset joint pain or swelling that does not resolve within a couple of weeks should warrant an automatic rheumatologic evaluation to assess the patient for the possibility of an inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis.
If you feel that the signs and symptoms above are something you are experiencing, or if you’re not sure, you should contact a rheumatologist. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, catching the disease early is very important. This is certainly one of those times when it is better to be safe than sorry.
Dr. Mahsa Tehrani, M.D. is co-founder of Arthritis and Rheumatology Clinical Center of Northern Virginia located in Fairfax. Dr. Tehrani is double board certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology. She can be reached at 703-734-2222.
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