Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system is misdirected into attacking the body’s own synovial tissue, which protects the joints. One of the most common rheumatoid arthritis symptoms is pain in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis joint pain is caused by inflammation of the joints due to this attack from the immune system. Rheumatoid arthritis pain symptoms include injuries that don’t heal properly, swelling in the extremities that compress the nerves in these areas, achiness and inflammation of the heels, and consistent pain that affects both sets of joints–both ankles, hips, knees, or wrists. Stiffness upon rising is another example of rheumatoid arthritis pain, as is a “locking” up of the joints, due to the increased amount of swelling and inflammation. The joints may feel very tender and warm to the touch, as well.
Because rheumatoid arthritis is becoming an increasingly common condition, much research has been done to help patients relieve the joint pain it causes. Rheumatoid arthritis pain management often requires treating the pain from many different angles. Patients are often given painkiller medications at prescription strength to begin with. If they need more help with rheumatoid arthritis pain management, physicians will also prescribe topical pain-relieving creams that can be massaged directly onto the affected areas to achieve the desired result. Patients may also receive injections of steroid pain relievers if their pain progresses.
There are ways to manage the illness other than treating the pain, although that is usually the first priority. Other methods of treatment include using drugs that are formulated to block the immune system’s attack on the joints. Some of the medications that perform this function also treat malaria and cancer, and prevent rejection of transplanted organs in transplant patients. The prescribing physician needs to monitor the patient so that he or she does not develop side effects associated with these powerful medications.
A newer class of drugs called “biologics” is altered human genes that interfere with the functioning of the rheumatoid arthritis patient’s overactive immune system. These drugs have had many good outcomes, but patients need to be aware that they may be more susceptible to infections and cancers because of the ways these medications can affect their immunity. It is recommended that patients taking biologics monitor their health carefully and receive inert vaccinations to keep themselves from developing preventable illnesses.