Early diagnosis can help common condition
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints. Hands, feet and wrists are commonly affected but it can also damage other parts of the body.
Symptoms usually vary over time and range from mild to severe.
The condition can some-times be very painful, making movement and everyday tasks difficult.
When symptoms become worse, this is known as a flare-up or flare. A flare-up is impossible to predict, making rheumatoid arthritis difficult to live with.
The condition is estimated to affect over 580,000 people in England and Wales and occurs more frequently in women than men. It is most common between the ages of 40 and 70, but can affect people of any age.
There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Howe-ver, early diagnosis and treatment can control symptoms and help prevent disability.
Treatment options include medication to relieve symp-toms or slow progress of the condition, surgery to correct joint problems, supportive treatments such as physio-therapy and/or complemen-tary therapies such as massage or acupuncture, which some people find helpful.
Currently, rheumatoid arthritis cannot be preven-ted as the exact trigger of the condition is unknown. Although viruses and bacteria may be involved, research is not yet conclusive.
Having rheumatoid arthritis can lead to several other conditions that may cause additional symptoms.
The most common com-plications are carpal tunnel syndrome and inflammation of other areas of the body such as the lungs, heart and eyes.