Answers FAQ

Rheumatoid Arthritis FAQs

Reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Take the Rheumatoid Arthritis Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and
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Q:The term arthritis refers to stiffness in the joints. True or False?

A:False.

The definition of arthritis is inflammation of the joints. This inflammation causes symptoms such as stiffness of the joints. It also causes pain, swelling, redness, and warmth.

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Q:Why is rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is different from some other forms of arthritis?

A:Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) differs from some other forms of arthritis because it is symmetrical, affecting both sides of the body.

Other types of arthritis may affect only one side of the body.

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Q:Rheumatoid arthritis is more severe in whom: Men or Women?

A:Women.

Rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect three times as many women as men, and symptoms may be more severe in women as well. RA tends to affect women at earlier ages, and men seem to have more cases of remission of the disease.

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Q:Rheumatoid arthritis is most likely caused by what factor?

A:There are thought to be several causes or risk factors associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Genetics is one component.

Hormones are believed to be another as women are diagnosed with RA more often, and it is suspected estrogen may play a role. The environment may be a factor: occupational exposure to certain dusts such as silica, wood, or asbestos can also lead to a higher risk for developing the illness, as can cigarette smoking. It is thought there may be a viral or bacterial infectious cause of RA but that is still being studied.

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Q:People with rheumatoid arthritis experience the most stiffness at night. True or False?

A:False.

People with rheumatoid arthritis tend to experience muscle and joint stiffness most in the morning or after extended periods of inactivity.

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Q:Rheumatology is the branch of medicine that involves the study of what?

A:Rheumatology is the branch of medicine that involves the study of disorders of the joints, muscles, and bones, autoimmune diseases, and soft tissue diseases.

A rheumatologist is usually an internal medicine specialist or pediatrician, with additional specialized rheumatology training to identify and treat the more than 100 different types of arthritis in addition to other autoimmune disorders such as lupus, gout, and osteoporosis.

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Q:Surgery is the only way to treat RA. True or False?

A:False.

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis usually involves a combination of medication, exercise, rest, and protecting the joints. Surgery may be needed in some cases.

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Q:Rheumatoid arthritis can be cured if diagnosed and treated early. True or False?

A:False.

Currently, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment for RA that is started early on in the disease process can help minimize or slow damage to the joints and improve quality of life for patients.

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Q:The sudden appearance or worsening of RA symptoms is referred to as a what?

A:Flare.

A flare is the sudden appearance, increase, or worsening of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms such as pain, inflammation, redness, warmth, or tenderness. Flares can last for days or weeks.

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Q:With rheumatoid arthritis, deformity of the joints is caused by chronic inflammation. True or False?

A:True.

The chronic inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can lead to debilitating loss of cartilage, bone weakness, and joint deformity in some patients. Damage to the joints is progressive and can occur over time.

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