Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, progressive condition. Yet, although there is currently no cure, some treatments can help slow its progression or even prevent it from worsening. With that being said, early intervention is critical, as existing joint damage can’t be reversed. Here’s a look at how RA progresses.
Early Rheumatoid Arthritis
In RA, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissue. People with RA may not notice pronounced symptoms at first. For instance, they may experience mild joint stiffness in the early morning in small joints such as the hands and feet. Oftentimes, the stiffness improves with movement, which is what differentiates RA from osteoarthritis.
Because symptoms can come and go, patients don’t always see a rheumatologist in the early phases. It can be challenging to make a concrete diagnosis, especially if there’s only one joint affected and minimal to no swelling is present. With sensitive imaging such as ultrasound and blood tests for inflammatory markers, it’s sometimes possible for doctors to make a diagnosis in this stage.
As RA progresses, swelling worsens. Oftentimes, the condition progresses to this phase before the patient is diagnosed. Antibodies will show up in blood work, and inflammation may spread to other body parts, including the organs. Usually, joint damage can be picked up by x-rays at this point.
By stage three, joint damage is visibly noticeable. Joints become misshapen, and crooked fingers can be painful due to nerve compression. Because of early treatment, however, joint deformity is becoming less and less common.
Without any treatment, joints would ultimately fuse together. Fortunately, treatment prevents RA from reaching this stage.
Patients can often tell if their Rheumatoid Arthritis is progressing based off how their joints are feeling. If you’re noticing worsening of symptoms, be sure to discuss how you’re feeling with a doctor to explore the best treatment options for you. Some patients are exploring regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy, to help manage symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
This post was written by a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for the joints, also known as stem cell therapy for joints! Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.