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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is rheumatoid arthritis?

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    Dr Irwin Lim

    Rheumatologist

    Irwin completed his Rheumatology training in 2003. The majority of his time is spent treating inflammatory arthritis and in particular rheumatoid arthritis and the spondyloarthritis. … View Profile

    Rheumatoid Arthritis is typically considered a joint disease, an arthritis.Rheumatoid arthritis can start in any joint but most commonly, the smaller joints of the fingers & the wrists are affected. These smaller joints in the hands are the “knuckles”: the metacarpophalangeal joints (MCPJs) and/or the proximal interphalangeal joints (PIPJs). But, please note that other joints can be involved such as knees, ankles, temporomandibular joints, shoulders, wrists, etc.

    Untreated, rheumatoid arthritis leads to joint destruction and joint deformity. However, like most of the autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis has wider, systemic effects. It’s not just a joint problem.The disease itself can cause other symptoms including:1)     Fatigue: can be debilitating & slow to improve
    2)     Stiffness: noted mainly in the morning & after sitting for long periods
    3)     Rheumatoid Nodules: lumps under the skin found on elbows & other bony surfaces
    4)     Loss of appetite
    5)     Depression
    6)     Dryness of the mouth & eyes: known as “sicca” or secondary Sjogren’s syndrome
    7)     In more severe or in untreated disease, organ involvement: includes inflammatory eye disease such as scleritis, lung disease, and inflammation of blood vessels (rheumatoid vasculitis).
    8)  Increase in cardiovascular risks
    9)  Accelerated bone loss, with an increase in osteoporosis

    It's a serious disease and needs to be managed as such. Rheumatologists are the specialists with the most experience in treating this disease.

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