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FAQ About Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune disease. That means it can affect all parts of the body, not just the joints, like you might think. There are many myths and questions surrounding Rheumatoid Arthritis, and I’d like to clear some of those up in this blog.

Q: The joint of my middle finger is causing me a lot of pain. It swells up at night and I can no longer make a fist. I’ve never injured my hand before. What should I do? Is it arthritis?

A: If you have a joint that becomes swollen, and the swelling persists for three days or more, then you should see your doctor and perhaps see a rheumatologist. Persistent inflammation in a joint is a sign of arthritis. You’ll need to find out which type of arthritis it is because there are differing treatments for different types.

Q: I’ve heard that some people use copper bracelets to treat RA. Is this a treatment I should pursue?

A: In clinical trials, copper bracelets were not shown to be more effective than placebos. However, having said that, I certainly have a number of patients who use copper bracelets and feel like it really helps their arthritis. So, being a pragmatist, I’m okay with a patient using a copper bracelet to treat their arthritis as long as they also use a proven form of treatment. If it helps you, it helps you, and every patient is different.

Q: Does cracking your knuckles cause arthritis?

A: There is no evidence that suggests that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis. However, if you keep playing with your knuckles, then maybe it’s because you’re already having a problem; maybe you’re developing arthritis in your knuckles and that’s why you continue to give them attention. It may be more a symptom of your disease rather than the cause of your disease. In either case, cracking your knuckles doesn’t seem to cause arthritis.

Q: I have Raynaud’s Syndrome as a result of my Rheumatoid Arthritis. A friend told me that she’s getting Botox to control her Raynaud’s. What’s the theory behind this?

A: Raynaud’s Syndrome derives from cramping of the blood vessels. When muscles in your blood vessels cramp down as a result of stress or cold, they prevent the blood from flowing to your fingers. Botox helps the blood vessels not to cramp, because it somewhat paralyzes the muscle, similar to how it removes creases from your face.

Rheumatoid Arthritis doesn’t have to be a life-defining condition. If you stay informed, specify your needs to your doctor, and continue your prescribed treatment, you can live a happy and healthy life.

W. Hayes Wilson, M.D. is the Chair of Rheumatology at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, GA.

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