Have the joints in your hands felt tender or swollen lately? You may be one of the 1.5 million Americans who has rheumatoid arthritis. Christi M. Kenyon, MD -- a rheumatology specialist in Seattle -- helps her patients manage their symptoms, so their condition doesn’t dominate their life. Diagnosing this type of arthritis early on can prevent damage to your joints, tissues, and organs later in life. If you think you may have rheumatoid arthritis, call Dr. Kenyon today or request an appointment online.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the lining of your joints. This type of arthritis causes painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.
The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can vary in severity, and come and go in flares. A flare is a period when you experience increased disease activity, which then alternates with a period of remission when your symptoms fade or disappear. Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
In the earlier stages of the disease, rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect your smaller joints, like the ones in your fingers and toes.
As the condition progresses, it spreads to your wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders. Usually, you experience the same symptoms in the same joints on both sides of your body.
Eventually, rheumatoid arthritis can cause your joints to deform and shift out of place.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one single test for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. Confirming the diagnosis can require multiple tests. Dr. Kenyon uses various resources to determine if you are suffering from the chronic condition.
First, Dr. Kenyon discusses your symptoms and medical history before performing a physical exam of your joints. She checks for swelling, redness, and warmth in your joints, and she will test your reflexes and muscle strength.
Next, Dr. Kenyon runs a blood panel to check for substances such as a specific type of antibodies or elevated levels of acute phase reactants. Their presence indicates your body is suffering from inflammatory conditions and supports a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
Other imaging tests Dr. Kenyon may request include:
Although rheumatoid arthritis has no cure, Dr. Kenyon can design a treatment plan to manage your symptoms. The medications Dr. Kenyon recommends are determined by the severity of your symptoms, as well as how long you've had rheumatoid arthritis.
Common medications she may prescribe include:
Commonly called NSAIDs, these medications relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
These medications reduce inflammation and pain and slow joint damage.
Sometimes abbreviated as DMARDs, these drugs can slow the progression of the disease and save your joints and tissues from permanent damage.
Biologic agents, such as antibodies or vaccines, target parts of your immune system that trigger the inflammation that causes joint and tissue damage.
Dr. Kenyon may recommend that you visit a physical or occupational therapist so you can learn specific exercises to keep your joints flexible. You’ll discover how to execute daily tasks in a manner that's less likely to affect your joints. She may also suggest home remedies and dietary changes to help manage your condition.
Regardless of your situation, Dr. Kenyon takes the time to sit down and discuss the best treatment plan for you and your lifestyle. Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis work best when the condition is diagnosed early.
If you think you have rheumatoid arthritis, don’t wait. Call Dr. Kenyon today or request an appointment online to come in for a consultation.