Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that affects the joints. It causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. If one knee or hand has rheumatoid arthritis, usually the other does too. This disease often occurs in more than one joint and can affect any joint in the body. People with this disease may feel sick and tired, sometimes developing fevers.
Some people have this disease for only a few months, or a year or two. Then it goes away without causing damage. Other people have times when the symptoms get worse (flares), and times when they get better (remissions). Others have a severe form of the disease that can last for many years or a lifetime. Severe arthritis can cause serious joint damage.
Doctors don’t know the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis. They do know that with this arthritis, a person’s immune system attacks his or her own body tissues. Researchers are learning many things about why and how this happens. Rheumatoid arthritis is treated by a rheumatologist. If pain is severe, then NSAID’s and opioids may be of help. At times, selected joint injections, nerve blocks, and epidurals may be indicated.