September 11, 2020 at 7:41 pm · drsahai · 0 comments
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects everyone differently. The symptoms can vary across people. They can be mild, moderate, or severe. There is no timeline for the progression of RA. In fact, it’s known to worsen over time, especially without treatment. However, there are known stages of RA. And some treatment can actually slow rheumatoid arthritis progression! Therefore, allowing you to focus on pain management.
Patterns of Rheumatoid Arthritis Progression
Most people with RA see symptoms gradually worsen. There will also be times of relief. Pain can be more manageable during these times. Other times, there can be flare-ups. These are associated with intense pain. Different factors influence RA progression, such as:
- Family history of RA
- Your age when diagnosed
- Specific disease triggers
- Presences of certain antibodies
- The stage of your RA when diagnosed
Keeping these factors in mind can help you understand the condition. And the key is how it’s progressing. However, there is no way to predict how rheumatoid arthritis will continue. It’s even possible for your condition to vary vastly from that of a family member. Therefore, all you can do is best to understand your RA.
One thing research shows are that flare-ups are common. Over time, flare-ups will last longer and be more intense. It’s also common to experience strong attacks early on. After these attacks, there are typically periods of minimal rheumatoid arthritis activity, though.
A small percentage (around 10%) of people can fall into remission after 6 months. This means that disease activity has stopped. In fact, these people do not have specific antibodies present.
Stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis
As RA progresses, your body changes. Each stage of rheumatoid arthritis will involve different changes. And, there will be multiple treatment goals, such as:
Stage 1: Early Stage
Symptoms include joint pain, swelling, stiffness. Inflammation in the joint is present, and tissues will swell. There will be no bone damage. And the synovium (joint lining) is inflamed.
Stage 2: Moderate Stage
The inflamed synovium will cause cartilage damage. And the damaged cartilage leaves the end of bones unprotected. Therefore, causing pain and immobility. Additionally, the range of joint motion is also restricted.
Stage 3: Severe Stage
Damage is extended to cartilage and bones in the joint. Bones will then rub together during movement. You will experience more swelling and pain, and possible weakness. Therefore, bone damage often will lead to some deformity of the joint.
Stage 4: End Stage
There is no inflammation at this stage. In fact, the joints have stopped working. But you will feel pain, swelling, and loss of mobility. You can also have reduced muscle strength. Bones may fuse together (ankylosis,) and the joint is then destroyed.
RA can take years to progress. Many people do not go through all four stages, though.
RA Treatment Options
Your doctor will advise a treatment plan specific to you. Treatment depends on the stage you are in. Options your doctor will consider are as follows:
- How long you have had RA
- The severity of your symptoms
- The degree of inflammation
Different medications are prescribed for different outcomes. NSAIDs are used to reduce inflammation. DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs) help save tissues. Biologic drugs work to control the inflammatory response.
Is Surgery an Option for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Yes, in the later stages of rheumatoid arthritis progression, surgery is also an option. The goal of surgery is to improve daily function. Additionally, it helps to reduce pain and repair damage. Surgery may involve removing the synovium or repairing tendons. Although joints can also be fused or replaced entirely.
Have you been diagnosed with RA? We may be able to help. Call 888-409-8006 for more information.