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Rheumatoid Arthritis in New Jersey

Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating autoimmune disorder that attacks the synovial joints throughout the body that leads to joint deformation, swelling, pain, and loss of function. With offices in Totowa and Lafayette Township, Performance Rehabilitation offers comprehensive physical therapy treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the synovial lining of multiple joints throughout the body. This causes painful inflammation and joint deformation that can profoundly affect patient function. Most often the hands are affected and tasks as simple as buttoning your shirt can be difficult and painful.

What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The following symptoms are a few of the early indications of RA:

  • Fatigue and muscle pain
  • Joint swelling and pain
  • Weakness
  • Rheumatoid nodules or lumps of tissue under the skin
  • Stiffness after sleeping or prolonged sitting

Rheumatoid arthritis affects each patient differently. For some, the joint symptoms develop over a period of years. For others, the onset of the symptoms is quick.

Some patients with RA will experience symptoms briefly before their rheumatoid arthritis goes into remission. During remission, the patient does not experience any signs of RA.

Who is Affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis can affect anyone. About 1% of Americans are diagnosed with the condition. Women are two to three times more likely to develop the disease. While rheumatoid arthritis affects women more, the symptoms are more severe in men. The onset of symptoms usually begins around middle age; however, children and the elderly are not immune from developing them.

What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The exact cause of RA is unknown. However, it is known that something causes the immune system to attack the body’s joints, and in some cases, organs. It is believed that bacteria or a virus triggers the attacks. Some theories claim that there is a link between smoking and rheumatoid arthritis.

A person’s genetic makeup may also make him or her more susceptible to developing RA.

How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect the Body?

The cells of the immune system flow through the blood stream into the joints and the synovium, the joint lining tissue. When the cells reach this area, they produce inflammation that causes irritation. This irritation causes the cartilage, the support material between the bones, to deteriorate. When the cartilage decreases, the spacing between the bones shrinks. In severe situations, the bones may begin to rub together.

The inflamed joint lining causes the buildup of fluid and swelling in the joints. The swelling of the lining may also result in bone damage. All of these issues can cause the joints to feel warm to the touch and patients to experience a great deal of pain.

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed?

Currently, there is no individual test that can diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. At your appointment, you will undergo a checkup, and we will ask you about your symptoms. We may order blood tests and perform x-rays.

A combination of factors is used to determine whether a patient has rheumatoid arthritis, such as:

  • Joint stiffness in the morning
  • Symmetry and location of the painful joints, especially in the hands
  • Presence of nodules and bumps underneath the skin (rheumatoid nodules)
  • Results of the blood tests and x-rays

Some of the common tests used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis are the following:

  • Most people who have rheumatoid arthritis will have a positive rheumatoid factor antibody test. Even so, it is possible for people who do not have rheumatoid arthritis to test positive for the rheumatoid factor (RF) antibody. Because of this, the presence of the RF factor is not used as the basis to diagnose RA. An assessment of joint problems combined with test results is used to make an accurate diagnosis.
  • The cyclic citrulline peptide antibody, anti-CCP, test is a newer blood test used to detect rheumatoid arthritis. It is used to detect anti-CCP antibodies in the body. If anti-CCP antibodies are detected, a patient may have a type of rheumatoid arthritis that is aggressive in nature.
  • Mild anemia is a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. Blood tests may also detect raised C-reactive protein (CRP) levels or erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ERS), indicating the existence of inflammation.
  • Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis will have a positive antibody test (ANA). Testing positive means the patient has an autoimmune disease. The test does not determine which one.

When the inflammation subsides, exercising will help to keep your joints flexible and strengthen the muscles around them. Gentle stretching, brisk walks and swimming are some of the exercises that can help. You may want to consider working with our physical therapist before starting an exercise program.

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated at Performance Rehabilitation?

Performance Rehabilitation’s physical therapists are highly trained, and focus on the needs of the individual. They will create a treatment program that meets your individual needs while considering the severity of your condition. Our therapists will help you improve your range of motion, increase your strength and build your endurance. Joint conservation techniques are taught to the patient and may include splinting and positioning instructions. Your treatment plan will focus on your overall goals and needs, as well as your current state of health. Continuous assessment by our physical therapists ensures that your care is highly specific to your individual needs. This is critical as RA symptoms change and respecting when a flare-up of the disease is present is necessary to prevent joint damage. Performance Rehabilitation’s staff will always put your needs first when helping you manage your treatment and care.

Rheumatoid arthritis can greatly affect your quality of life. If you have symptoms of RA, contact us to schedule a personal consultation with one of our physical therapists at Performance Rehabilitation, with offices in Totowa and Lafayette Township in New Jersey.