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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition that affects the joints, causing pain and swelling. The most common sites of inflammation are the wrists and hands, but other locations, such as the feet, knees and shoulders, can also be affected. Symptoms generally occur in a symmetric pattern, meaning that if you have inflammation in a joint on one side of the body, you will also have it in the same joint on the other side. Bumps, called rheumatoid nodules, can develop on affected joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis can make it challenging to carry out daily activities, especially those that involve gripping. The condition often causes stiffness, especially in the morning. In some cases, joint damage can have disabling effects, causing restricted movement and difficulty in performing tasks such as typing, cooking, getting dressed and taking care of pets. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis have periodic fevers and a lack of energy. In addition, some experience damage to the heart, lungs and other organs.

The inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis results from an autoimmune process. The body’s immune system, which normally attacks bacteria, viruses and other invaders, begins to treat the joint tissues as foreign material. The bones, cartilage and tendons can suffer significant damage over time. Researchers believe that rheumatoid arthritis develops as a result of genetic and environmental factors. Although the disorder most often begins in middle-aged patients, it can also emerge in younger and older people. In all, the condition affects more than 1.5 million people, most of whom are women.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that can follow any of several courses. Some people experience one bout that does not recur, others have periodic flare-ups and still others have constant symptoms. Early identification and treatment of the condition may lead to a less severe disease course. Diagnosis is based on medical history and physical examination along with testing such as X-ray, joint aspiration, biopsy and blood work. 

Our rheumatologists use the most advanced methods to diagnose and treat rheumatoid arthritis. Although there is no cure for the condition, we provide an array of treatments to reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms and delay or prevent joint damage. As leaders in the field, many of our physicians are involved in research to find new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis as well as training the next generation of healthcare providers.

Doctors and other clinicians at our network of hospital-based and satellite offices are skilled at caring for patients with rheumatoid arthritis of all stages and severity levels, even when symptoms are complex or hard to define. Additionally, we can use the comprehensive referral system of Indiana University Health to ensure that patients also benefit from experts in orthopedics, physical medicine, neurology, neurosurgery and other fields when necessary. With proper treatment, most patients can enjoy high functioning and an active lifestyle. Many can enter remission. 

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Information

We offer treatment based on current care guidelines and your preferences. Options include:

Rheumatoid Arthritis Locations & Physicians

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Find a Specialist

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Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Services

Resources to help people who have rheumatoid arthritis are available from a variety of organizations. The following sites assist patients in understanding the condition, choosing appropriate treatments and living fuller lives.