Rheumatoid Arthritis (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, Chief Medical Editor
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, Chief Medical Editor
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
IN THIS ARTICLE
Rheumatoid Arthritis Prevention
There is no known way to prevent rheumatoid arthritis, although progression of the disease usually can be stopped or slowed by early, aggressive treatment.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Prognosis
As a rule, the severity of rheumatoid arthritis waxes and wanes. Periods of active inflammation and tissue damage marked by worsening of symptoms (flares) are interspersed with periods of little or no activity, in which symptoms get better or go away altogether (remission). The duration of these cycles varies widely among individuals.
Outcomes are also highly variable. Some people have a relatively mild condition, with little disability or loss of function. Others at the opposite end of the spectrum experience severe disability due to pain and loss of function. Disease that remains persistently active for more than a year is likely to lead to joint deformities and disability. Approximately 40% of people have some degree of disability 10 years after their diagnosis. For most, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic progressive illness, but about 5%-10% of people experience remission without treatment. This is uncommon, however, after the first three to six months.
Rheumatoid arthritis is not fatal, but complications of the disease shorten life span by a few years in some individuals. Although generally rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured, the disease gradually becomes less aggressive and symptoms may even improve. However, any damage to joints and ligaments and any deformities that have occurred are permanent. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect parts of the body other than the joints.
The early use of DMARDs and biologic response modifiers in rheumatoid arthritis has resulted in patients experiencing more profound relief of symptoms and less joint damage and less disability over time.
Common complications of rheumatoid arthritis include the following:
Overall, the rate of premature death is higher in people with rheumatoid arthritis than in the general population. The most common causes of premature death in people with rheumatoid arthritis are infection, vasculitis, and poor nutrition. Fortunately, the manifestations of severe, long-standing disease, such as nodules, vasculitis, and deforming are becoming less common with optimal treatments.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Groups and Counseling
Living with the effects of rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult. Sometimes you can feel frustrated, perhaps even angry or resentful. Sometimes it helps to have someone to talk to.
This is the purpose of support groups. Support groups consist of people in the same situation you are in. They come together to help each other and to help themselves. Support groups provide reassurance, motivation, and inspiration. They can help you see that your situation is not unique, and that gives you power. They also provide practical tips on coping with your disease.
Support groups meet in person, on the telephone, or on the Internet. To find a support group that works for you, ask your health care professional or contact the following organizations or look on the Internet. If you do not have access to the Internet, go to the public library.
For More Information
Arthritis Foundation, Rheumatoid Arthritis
Synonyms and Keywords
rheumatoid arthritis, RA, autoimmune disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, connective tissue disease, joint disease, joint stiffness, joint swelling, systematic disease, immune disorder, inflammation, inflammatory disorder, osteoporosis, rheumatic disease, rheumatoid nodules, synovitis, synovium, vasculitic nodules, vasculitis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, JRA, inflammation of the joints, joint inflammation, osteoarthritis, anemia, Sjögren syndrome
Authors and Editors
Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Previous contributing authors and editors:
Last Editorial Review: 1/27/2012
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