Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms - what is the condition and who is at risk?

The condition can cause swelling, pain and stiffness in the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is different from osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis in the UK.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition which means it is caused by the immune system attacking healthy body tissue.

The condition causes joint to become sore and inflamed and damaged bones, cartilage, tendons and ligaments.

It can also cause the joints to lose its shape and alignment.

People suffering with rheumatoid arthritis often experience periods where the symptoms are worse.

These can be difficult to predict but there is treatment available which can ease pain and prevent long-term damage to the joints.

Some people with rheumatoid arthritis also experience problems in other parts of the body - such as dry eyes or chest pain - or more general symptoms such as tiredness and weight loss.

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis but treatment for the condition can help reduce inflammation in the joints, slow damage and relieve pain.

People diagnosed with the disease will usually be offered medication called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS).

The medication is designed to ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and slow down the progression of the arthritis.

Methotrexate is usually the first medicine given for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

In addition to the medication people may also need to take painkillers to relieve pain.

These include non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.

Some people are even prescribed corticosteroids which can ease inflammation and stiffness.

People are at greater risk of the disease if they are a woman, have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis, or if they smoke.

Complications of rheumatoid arthritis can include carpal tunnel syndrome, inflammation of other areas of the body - such as the lungs, heart and eyes and an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. 

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include: pain, stiffness, swelling, warmth and redness in the joint, tiredness and a lack of energy, a high temperature, sweating, poor appetite and weight loss.

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