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    Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Overview
    Symptoms
    Risk Factors
    Diagnosis
    Treatment Options
    Where To Seek Treatment
    Singapore General Hospital
    Contributed by Dept of Rheumatology & Immunology

    Overview


    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common autoimmune rheumatic disorder and aff ects around 1% of the population, which is equivalent to about 45,000 people in Singapore. A chronic inflammatory disorder, it affects the joints and less frequently, the skin, eyes, lungs and other organs.


    Symptoms


    Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) causes joint stiffness, pain and swelling and possibly other organ damage. The joints affected and severity of joint or other organ inflammation varies between people.

    Sometimes, a person may not realise for a long period of time that he has RA because the symptoms may be as subtle as persistent tiredness and mild joint stiffness.

    Risk Factors

    RA affects all races and 75% of patients are female. The age at which RA most frequently begins is between 20 and 45 years old. Although the exact cause for RA is unknown, it seems that certain people inherit the tendency to develop RA.

    That means that your children will be more likely to develop RA if you suffer from RA but the risk is still low.


    Diagnosis

    In order to diagnose RA accurately, a doctor must evaluate the patient and usually also perform blood tests and x-rays. It is very important to diagnose RA as early as possible as research has shown that prompt treatment improves the chances for the patient to be treated eff ectively so that the joint and organs remain healthy and not permanently damaged. Referral to a rheumatologist (a specialist doctor who looks after patients with rheumatic disease) is often helpful for confi rmation of RA and treatment.


    Treatment Options

    Upon confirmation of the diagnosis of RA, the attending doctor will determine the type of medication suitable for the patient based on individual requirements. Examples of medications used to treat RA are NSAIDS (Diclofenac), prednisolone, hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate and TNF - blockers such as etanercept and infl iximab. The attending doctor may also arrange for the patient to meet the rheumatology nurse clinician, physiotherapist and occupational therapists, if appropriate.

    RA causes mainly joint but possibly other organ inflammation as well. Referral for evaluation should be considered as soon as possible if RA is suspected so that appropriate treatment can be given to prevent permanent organ damage. At the moment, there is no cure for RA but rapid research developments have given rise to treatments that have enabled people affected by RA to live normal lives.

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