Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common autoimmune rheumatic disorder and aff ects around 1% of the population, which is equivalent to about 45,000 people in Singapore. A chronic inflammatory disorder, it affects the joints and less frequently, the skin, eyes, lungs and other organs.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) causes joint stiffness, pain and swelling and possibly other organ damage. The joints affected and severity of joint or other organ inflammation varies between people.
Sometimes, a person may not realise for a long period of time that he has Rheumatoid Arthritis because the symptoms may be as subtle as persistent tiredness and mild joint stiffness.
Rheumatoid Arthritis affects all races and 75% of patients are female. The age at which Rheumatoid Arthritis most frequently begins is between 20 and 45 years old. Although the exact cause for RA is unknown, it seems that certain people inherit the tendency to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis.
That means that your children will be more likely to develop RA if you suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis but the risk is still low.
In order to diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis accurately, a doctor must evaluate the patient and usually also perform blood tests and x-rays. It is very important to diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritisas early as possible as research has shown that prompt treatment improves the chances for the patient to be treated eff ectively so that the joint and organs remain healthy and not permanently damaged. Referral to a rheumatologist (a specialist doctor who looks after patients with rheumatic disease) is often helpful for confirmation of Rheumatoid Arthritis and treatment.
Upon confirmation of the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the attending doctor will determine the type of medication suitable for the patient based on individual requirements. Examples of medications used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis are NSAIDS (Diclofenac), prednisolone, hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate and TNF - blockers such as etanercept and infl iximab. The attending doctor may also arrange for the patient to meet the rheumatology nurse clinician, physiotherapist and occupational therapists, if appropriate.
Rheumatoid Arthritis causes mainly joint but possibly other organ inflammation as well. Referral for evaluation should be considered as soon as possible if Rheumatoid Arthritis is suspected so that appropriate treatment can be given to prevent permanent organ damage. At the moment, there is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis but rapid research developments have given rise to treatments that have enabled people affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis to live normal lives.
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