Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory joint disease. Symptoms are chronic and can affect surrounding tissues and organs.
The onset of RA is gradual, with milder symptoms that include stiffness in the morning that lasts over an hour, muscle aches and weakness, fatigue and loss of appetite.
Stiffness, tenderness and warmth can develop in a joint at rest. Swelling and fluid accumulation can occur if there is inflammation of the joint lining. These symptoms become worse as RA progresses to joint destruction, and additional symptoms appear.
Because RA is chronic, it usually requires long-term treatment. Once diagnosed, joint destruction can be slowed if your therapy is early and aggressive.
Standard of Care
RA is usually treated with a combination of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, exercise, rest and anti-inflammatory drugs.
To control joint pain and swelling, you can take aspirin and ibuprofen, which is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Be aware that long-term side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs include stomach ulcers, bleeding and a greater risk of heart attack and stroke.