Information on managing the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis.

Select a Topic

  1. What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
  2. Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis
  3. What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
  4. Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment and Natural Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis
  5. More Information on Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?An older woman holding out her hands

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s own defense system does not work properly. The  immune system attacks parts of the body, especially the joints, and breaks them down. This causes pain and swelling.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms affect joints and bones, most commonly the hands and feet. It can also affect the eyes, heart, lungs, blood, skin and nerves. RA usually affects multiple joints, and can affect joints on both sides of the body at the same time. The inflammation can cause severe joint damage if left untreated.

About 1 out of every 5 rheumatoid arthritis patients also get lumps on their skin called rheumatoid nodules. Nodules typically form on the skin covering joint areas such as elbows, heels and knuckles.

Symptoms can come on gradually or appear suddenly. They can be debilitating. RA is one of the more serious forms of arthritis and typically affects women more than men.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Pain in more than one joint
  • Stiffness in more than one joint
  • Swelling and tenderness in more than one joint
  • More than one aching or swollen joint, especially small joints
  • Symmetrical pattern with the same symptoms on both sides of the body
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness

There are times RA symptoms worsen, called flares, and times when symptoms feel better, known as remission.

Clearing up Terminology: Arthritis vs. Rheumatism

Diagnosing RA can take time. No single test can confirm a diagnosis, so your health care team will use several tools and tests to diagnose the condition.

First, your doctor will take a medical history and ask about your symptoms. A physical exam of your joints will look for:

  • Swelling, redness and tenderness
  • Joint range of motion and function
  • Muscle strength and reflex test

Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis

Diagnosing RA can take time. No single test can confirm a diagnosis, so your health care team will use several tools and tests to diagnose the condition.

First, your doctor will take a medical history and ask about your symptoms. A physical exam of your joints will look for:

  • Swelling, redness and tenderness
  • Joint range of motion and function
  • Muscle strength and reflex test

They may do a blood test to look for certain substances like antibodies, or check for certain inflammatory markers that can be a sign of RA. They may also do imaging tests such as ultrasound, X-ray or MRI. These tests can show if there is joint damage, as well as the severity of joint damage.

Some people may need evaluation and monitoring of other organs, since RA can affect those systems too.

Diagnostic Criteria

According to the American College of Rheumatology, current diagnostic criteria for RA requires one positive confirmed blood test and at least 6 points on a classification scale.

RA points classification scale:

  • Symptoms affect one or more joints, up to 5 points
  • Positive blood test results for rheumatoid factor (RF) or anticitrullinated protein antibody (anti-CCP), up to 3 points
  • Positive erythrocyte sedimentation test or C-reactive protein (CRP) test, 1 point
  • Symptoms last longer than six weeks, 1 point

What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Doctors aren’t sure what causes RA. One theory is that the immune system becomes confused after a bacterial or viral infection and starts to attack its own healthy cells. Researchers have studied several genetic and environmental factors to see if they affect a person’s risk of developing RA.

Scientists believe there is a relationship between RA and two chemicals in the body related to inflammation: tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin-1. They think these may trigger other parts of the immune system in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Prescription medications that block interleukin-1, interleukin-6 and TNF can improve symptoms and prevent joint damage.

While the exact causes of RA aren’t known, certain risk factors increase the odds of developing the disease.

Risk factors for RA:
  • Age. The likelihood of developing RA increases with age. The highest onset of RA is adults in their 60s.
  • Sex. Women are diagnosed with RA at two to three times the rate of men.
  • Heredity and genetics. People born with specific genes called HLA (human leukocyte antigen) are more likely to develop RA. The risk increases when these genes are combined with negative environmental factors like smoking or obesity.
  • Smoking. Not only does cigarette smoking increase a person’s risk of RA, it can make the disease worse.
  • Pregnancy. Women who have never given birth may have a higher risk of RA.
  • Obesity. Studies show a correlation between overweight and risk of developing RA.

Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

There is no cure for RA, but it can be managed and treated with self-care and medication.

Medication for RA aims to slow the disease and protect the joints from deformity. These drugs are called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

Self-managed care strategies help patients reduce pain, improve joint function and stay active.

Natural remedies for joint pain and stiffness

More and more patients are choosing natural and holistic remedies to treat RA, either alone or in combination with prescription medication. Medication can treat RA pain effectively, but can have harsh side effects.

Natural supplements such as JointEase Plus™ for Joint Movement & Flexibilty provide natural support for joint problems and cartilage health. JointEase Plus is an herbal supplement that supports joint health, flexibility, movement and comfort.

Hemp+ Inflammation is an all-natural cannabinoid rich hemp powder supplement with organic turmeric extract to fight inflammation.

CBFreeze+ Pain Relief Roll-On relieves sore muscles, backaches, arthritis pain and more with the power CBD, natural menthol and 20 all-natural oils.

More Information on Rheumatoid Arthritis

What are the complications of RA?

Rheumatoid Arthritis can have a large impact on quality of life, due to the pain and disability it causes the body.

  • Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • Employment difficulties due to loss of mobility and dexterity, especially among people whose jobs have more physical demands.
How to manage RA

Many self-care strategies are proven to help RA patients enjoy a higher quality of life.

  • Stay (or get) physically active. Aim for moderate physical activity 150 minutes per week, 30 minutes per day for five days a week. As a bonus, this physical activity will also help protect against heart disease, depression and diabetes. If you have trouble staying motivated on your own, check out community programs through the YMCA or community centers.
  • Education. Classes on how to control RA can help patients learn how to control symptoms and lessen the impact RA has on their lives.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking makes RA worse, in addition to all the other health problems it can cause.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, or lose weight if you need to. Obesity can create serious additional complications for people with RA.
The content provided is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have a health condition, please consult a medical professional and do not use this information to self-diagnose or self-treat.
  1. “Rheumatoid Arthritis Health Center.” WebMD. Accessed January 9, 2020.
  2.  “Everything You Need to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Healthline. Accessed January 20, 2020.
  3. “Is Depression a Factor in Rheumatoid Arthritis?” Mayo Clinic. Accessed January 9, 2020.
  4. “Research Suggests a Positive Correlation Between Social Interaction and Health.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed January 9, 2020.
  5. “Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed January 9, 2020.

.tinymce-seo h1, .tinymce-seo h2, .tinymce-seo h3, .tinymce-seo h4, .tinymce-seo h5, .tinymce-seo h6 { font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: inherit; padding: 10px 0; } .well h4 { color: white; margin-bottom: 1em; } .well a { font-weight: bold; color: white; text-decoration: underline; } .well p{ margin-bottom: .5em; } .well__content { text-align: left; } .category.text-center{ width: 100% }