• 530.541.3420 | 2170 South Avenue, S. Lake Tahoe, CA
Rheumatoid Arthritis

Get Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis Sooner, Not Later

Cold temperatures can cause increased pain and inflammation from arthritis—get help to stay active this winter. 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease in which your immune system attacks your own joints by mistake. It can start at any age, but the risk is highest in your 60s.

Rheumatoid arthritis is different from osteoarthritis (OA, or “wear and tear” arthritis) in that it is an autoimmune/inflammatory arthritis with hallmark features of red, hot, and swollen joints, and it leads to more joint destruction if left untreated. It is treated differently from OA, with medications and lifestyle changes that help calm the immune system.

We don’t fully understand why people develop RA, but experts believe it may be due to a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental triggers, such as smoking or infections.

If you have been diagnosed with RA, your health care provider may prescribe:

  • Medications called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to slow the disease’s progress and help prevent further joint damage. Fortunately, there are now several options of DMARDs available for treatment. Your health care provider will help you choose a medication based on disease severity and other health factors.
  • Lifestyle changes—such as exercising regularly, balancing activity with rest, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and quitting smoking—to help reduce joint pain and disability.

Early Treatment Matters
RA causes painful joint swelling, called synovitis, in the lining of affected joints. If not treated, this inflammation can injure the cartilage and bones within your joints.

In time, the joint may become increasingly painful, misshapen, and hard to move. Significant damage can occur early in the disease, and once this happens, the harm cannot be undone.

This is why it is crucial to start taking a DMARD as soon as possible after the disease begins. This type of medicine helps stop or reduce inflammation and decrease pain, as well as slow down RA and help prevent the destruction of joint tissue.

Don’t Put Off Getting Help 

What if you have not yet been diagnosed with RA but you develop problems that could be signs of the disease? It’s important to check out what’s going on. Talk with your provider about:

  • Pain, aching, prolonged morning stiffness, and swelling in more than one joint
  • Having the same joint symptoms on both sides of your body, such as in both hands
  • Associated symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, fever, tiredness, and/or weakness

If it turns out that you have RA, the disease can be effectively managed with a combination of medicine and lifestyle changes. But the sooner you get started, the better—so don’t delay.

Board-certified rheumatologist Dr. Leah Krull helps patients manage arthritis and treats a variety of joint and inflammation issues at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness. Visit BartonHealth.org/ Rheumatology to learn more and make an appointment.