Rheumatoid Arthritis: Definition, Classifications, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammation disorder that primarily affects the joints causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Rheumatology, a specialized branch of medicine, plays a crucial role in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of this condition. This article explores the basics of  rheumatoid arthritis and the vital contribution of rheumatologists in improving the lives of those affected by the disease. For more research you can also visit Arthritis Society Canada.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

So it’s different from the more common osteoarthritis. The living of the membranes that surround the joints. This leads to inflammation which can cause damage to the joint and surrounding tissues. RA often joints on both sides of the body such as wrists, knees, and fingers. Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include joint pain, swelling, morning stiffness, and fatigue. The severity of symptoms can vary, and also affect other organs, such as the heart, lungs, and eyes.

What are the Classifications of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

There are several different classifications of rheumatoid arthritis. Knowing which classification you have may help your healthcare provider choose the best type of treatment for you. The types of rheumatoid arthritis include:

Seropositive Rheumatoid Arthritis:

They refer to having a positive rheumatoid factor or anti-CCP blood test result. This indicates the presence of antibodies that triggers the immune system to attack joints.

Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis:

They occur when both the rheumatoid factor  and anti-CCP blood tests yield negative results, despite experiencing symptoms of RA. However, it’s possible to have RA without these specific antibodies initially. Over time, individuals with seronegative RA may develop antibodies leading to change in diagnosis to seropositive rheumatoid arthritis.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis:

This is a form of rheumatoid arthritis that affects children aged 17 years old and younger. It was previously referred to as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). The symptoms of JIA are similar to those of other types of RA, but children with JIA may also experience eye inflammation and developmental issues.

What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Signs and symptoms of it may include:

  • Tender, warm, swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings after inactivity
  • Fatigue, fever and loss of appetite
  • Pain or aching in more than one joint
  • The same joint symptoms on both side of the body
  • Loss of joint function on both sides of the body
  • Fatigue
  • Low grade fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness

Early rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect your smaller joints first particularly the joints that attach your fingers to your hands and your toes to your feet. As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankle, elbow, hips, and shoulder. In most cases, symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of your body. About 40% of people who have rheumatoid arthritis also experience signs and symptoms that don’t involve the joints. Areas that may be affected include:

  • Skin
  • Eyes
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Kidney
  • Salivary glands
  • Nerve tissue
  • Bone marrow
  • Blood vessels

Its signs and symptoms may vary in severity and may even come and go. Periods in increased disease activity, called flares, alternate with periods of relative mission, when the swelling and pain fade or disappear. Over time, rheumatoid arthritis can cause joints to deform and shift out of place.

What are the Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

It’s an autoimmune disease. Normally your immune system helps protect your body from infection and disease. In rheumatoid arthritis your immune system attacks healthy tissue in your joints. It can also cause medical problems with your heart, lungs, eyes, skin, and nerves. Doctors don’t know what starts this process, although a genetic component appears likely. While your genes aren’t likely to react to environmental factors such as infection with certain viruses and bacteria that may trigger the disease.

What are the Risk Factors of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Factors that may increase your risk of it’s include:

  • Your sex
  • Age
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Excess weight
  • Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis increases your risk of developing
  • Osteoporosis
  • Rheumatoid nodules
  • Dry eyes and mouth
  • Infections
  • Abnormal body composition
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Lymphoma

What is Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages because the early signs and symptoms mimic those of many other diseases. There is no one blood test or physical finding to confirm the diagnosis. During the physical exam your doctor will check your joints for swelling, redness, and warmth. He or she may also check your reflexes and muscle strength. Here’s are some following tests include:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests
  • C-reactive protein test
  • MRI’s
  • Rheumatoid factors
  • Sed rate (erythrocyte sedimentation rate)
  • Looking for swelling and redness
  • Examine joint function and range of motion
  • Touching the affected joints to check for warmth and tenderness
  • Testing your reflexes and muscles strength
  • Ultrasound
  • X-rays

If rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is suspected your healthcare provider will likely refer you to a specialist called a rheumatologist. Since there is no single test to confirm a diagnosis of RA, your healthcare provider or rheumatologist may use several different types of tests. They may test your blood for certain substances like antibodies or check the level or certain substances like acute phase reactants, which are elevated during inflammatory conditions. These tests can indicate the presence of RA and support the diagnosis. Additionally, they may request imaging tests such as ultrasound, X-rays or MRI to assess joint damage and its severity. For some individuals with RA, a complete evaluation and monitoring of other organ systems may also be recommended.

What are Blood Tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

There are several types of blood tests that help your healthcare provider or rheumatologist determine whether you have RA. These tests include:

  • Rheumatoid factor test
  • Anti Citrullinated peptide antibody test (anti-CCP)
  • Antinuclear antibody test
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • C-reactive protein test

What are the Treatments of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. But clinical studies indicate that remission of symptoms is more likely when treatment begins early with medications known as disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).


The types of medications recommended by the doctor will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how long you’ve had rheumatoid arthritis.

  • NSAIDs
  • Steroids
  • Conventional DMRADs
  • Biologic agents
  • Targeted synthetic DMARDs


Your doctors may refer you to a physical therapist or occupational therapist. Who can teach you exercises to help your joints be flexible? The therapist may also suggest new ways to do daily tasks that will be easier on your joints. For example, you may want to pick up and object using your forearms. Assistive devices can make it easier to avoid stressing your painful joints. For instance, a kitchen knife equipped with a hand grip helps protect your fingers and wrist joints. Certain tools such as buttonhooks can make it easier to get dresses. Catalogs and medical stores are good places to look for ideas.


If medicine fails to prevent or slow joint damage you and your doctor may consider surgery to repair damaged joints. Surgery may help restore your ability to use your joint. It can also reduce the pain and improve function. Rheumatoid arthritis surgery may involve one more of the following procedures:

  • Synovectomy
  • Tendon repair
  • Joint fusion
  • Total joint replacement
  • Elbow replacement surgery
  • Hip replacement
  • Knee replacement
  • Shoulder replacement
  • Spinal fusion

What to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications?

There are various types of medications used to treat RA. Some aim to alleviate pain and inflammation, while others flare and minimize joint damage caused by RA. Over the counter medications that can help reduce pain and inflammation during RA flares include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Acetaminophen (which reduces pain but not inflammation)

Additionally, there are prescription medications designed to slow down the progression of joint damage caused by RA. The following drugs work to slow the damage that RA can cause to your body:

  • Disease modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARDs)
  • Biologics
  • Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors

What to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet?

Your healthcare provider or dietitian might suggest an anti-inflammatory diet to alleviate your symptoms. This diet focuses on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Walnuts

Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E, along with selenium, can also help decrease inflammation. Foods rich in antioxidants include:

  • Berries such as blueberries, cranberries, goji berries and strawberries
  • Dark chocolate
  • spinach
  • Kidney beans
  • Pecans
  • Artichokes

Eating plenty of fiber is crucial. Opt for whole grains foods, fresh vegetables and fresh fruits. Strawberries might be especially helpful. Foods with flavonoids can also help combat inflammation in the body. They include:

  • Soy products such as tofu, and miso
  • Berries
  • Green tea
  • Broccoli
  • Grapes

What you avoid eating is just as important as what you include in your diet. Be sure to steer clear of trigger foods, such as processed carbohydrates and saturated or trans fats. By avoiding trigger foods and making wise choices in your diet, you may find it easier to manage your RA symptoms.

What are the Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Having RA can put you at an increased risk of developing other health complications. Some people may also develop complications from medications used to treat RA.

  • Premature heart disease
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Chest pain or asthma 
  • Eyes conditions
  • Vasculitis
  • Joint damage
  • Cervical myelopathy
  • Pneumonia
  • Renal failure
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • Pancytopenia
  • Lymphoma
  • Subcutaneous nodules

What is the Role of Rheumatology?

Rheumatology is a medical specialty dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of disease that affect the joint, muscles, and bones. Rheumatologists use a combination of medical history, physical exams, and laboratory tests to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis accurately. Early and accurate diagnosis is crucial for initiating timely treatment and preventing joint damage.

Treatment Plans:

Once diagnosed, rheumatologists work with patients to develop individualized treatment plans. So these may include medications to damage pain and inflammation disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs to slow down the progression of the disease and lifestyle modifications.

Monitoring and Adjusting Treatments:

Rheumatologists closely monitor patients’ responses to treatment and make adjustments as needed. Regular check-ups help ensure that the chosen therapist are effective and well tolerated.

Patient Educations:

Rheumatologists educate patients about their condition, treatment options and lifestyle changes that can improve their quality of life. So empowering patients with knowledge helps them actively participate in managing their health.

Collaborate Care:

Rheumatologists often work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals such as physical therapists, occupational therapists and primary care physicians to provide comprehensive care for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.


What are worse foods for arthritis?

Foods to avoid arthritis. Such as:

  • Added  sugar, Everyone can benefit from limiting their sugar intake and especially if they have arthritis
  • Processed and red meats
  • Gluten-containing foods
  • Highly processed foods
  • Certain vegetables oils
  • Foods high in salt
  • Foods high in AGEs

Are eggs good for arthritis?

In the country eggs have been shown to contain compounds that may have anti-inflammatory properties. So their reason for eating two eggs per week as a part of a well-balanced diet is recommended for most adults including those with arthritis.

Which fruit is the best for joint pain?

Studies which often use the concentrated juice of Montmorency cherries, have found tart cherries may relieve joint pain. So people with osteoarthritis (OA) and lower the risk of flares in those with gout. In addition, recent studies suggest tart cherries may improve the quality and duration of sleep.

Which foods increased the cartilage?

  • Pomegranates
  • Blueberries
  • Oranges
  • Plums
  • Dark leafy green vegetables
  • Brown rice
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fish
  • Bone broth
  • Turmeric and ginger
  • Green tea
  • Fermented dairy and sauerkraut

Can we eat bananas in joint pain?

Bananas are not bad for arthritis as they contain antioxidants which decrease inflammation as well as potassium, which is needed for healthy bones.

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