Rheumatoid arthritis is a common form of persistent inflammatory arthritis that occurs in all ethnic groups throughout the world. It is a lifelong condition. At the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, white blood cells infiltrate the joints and erode the cartilage present between the joints. At later stages, fibrous and bony ankylosis (joint rigidity) occurs. Patients typically come to their physicians complaining of tenderness and pain in small joints; rarely, however, large joints may also be involved. Patients also exhibit some characteristic clinical signs, such as the “swan neck deformity” and “buttonhole deformity”. Other symptoms include fever, weight loss, fatigue, and muscle wasting.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is typically managed with drugs called DMARDs (Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs) that intend to reduce pain and inflammation and preserve joint function. These include methotrexate, sulfasalazine, hydroxychloroquine, and others. Corticosteroids are usually given to speed up remission and the dose is tapered off once the condition improves.