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What Do I Need to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis?

When you are first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it is natural to be worried and a little scared. Your physician has explained what this will mean to you, but it may be difficult to completely process or even remember their recommendations. Once you get home, you may want to research rheumatoid arthritis for yourself. Then, you can take the time to examine the complexities of the condition and make sure your physician is using the latest findings.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Arthritis means “joint inflammation.” This inflammation can be due to several causes. One of the most complicated to treat is rheumatoid arthritis. Instead of the wear and tear of the bone surfaces found in the more common osteoarthritis, RA attacks the synovial lining of the joints. The lining swells when it is inflamed, causing pain and damage. Anyone at any age can develop RA. Children are classified separately as having Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Adults, usually women, most often develop RA after the age of 40.

How does RA affect the body?

RA first usually attacks the smaller joints in the hands and feet, but any joint is vulnerable. In addition, RA can attack your eyes, lungs, skin and even blood vessels. It is very important to be aware of these possibilities and pay particular attention to any unusual problems. It is crucial to follow your physician’s directions exactly. RA can end up causing so much damage that joint replacement is necessary, even in teenagers. In your research, look up each of these complications so you can recognize potential damage right away.

Where will I find the latest and most accurate information on RA?

When researching RA on the Internet or in books, use the utmost caution. Only use information from established sources with sterling reputations. The Arthritis Foundation and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases are two websites that you can depend on for the latest and most accurate information. Websites of top-notch medical centers like the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and others of this stature are always good.

What about commercial websites?

Resist the temptation to click on sites that promise treatment using tricks like drinking vinegar three times a day, taking many unusual vitamins or herbs or any other untested treatment. There are many websites that want to sell desperate people very expensive “treatments” that may be worthless or even harmful. Never take any herbs without telling your doctor. In general, beware of websites hosted by private persons or commercial companies. Look closely for the “kook” factor. Never believe the old story that the medical establishment knows all about a treatment, pill or concoction, but they hide it from their patients to make more money for themselves. This is never true and a statement like this should tell you right away that the information and any treatment is a sham.

What can I do if I am still confused?

Make a list of the questions you have after researching RA and bring that list to your next appointment. If you are not already seeing a rheumatologist, it is a good idea to involve them in your case soon. If your doctor is unable to answer your questions the way you feel they should, seek a second opinion. You won’t hurt your physician’s feelings and it is one of the best ways to protect yourself.

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