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Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis - What You Need to Know

The Progression of Mild to Moderate to Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Updated January 03, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

When assessing the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, doctors consider your symptoms, joint damage, and physical function. Symptoms of severe rheumatoid arthritis include a high level of joint pain, stiffness, or swelling of the affected joints. You may have trouble performing your usual daily activities. Joint deformities, especially hand deformity, are common with severe rheumatoid arthritis. The condition can also affect other organs in your body, leading to symptoms such as persistent fatigue.

While physical examinations, laboratory tests (including CRP and erythrocyte sedimentation rate), and imaging studies can help your doctor determine the severity of your condition, your own self-assessment is important too. For example, how long does morning stiffness last? Have symptoms, including your pain and fatigue levels, worsened? How is rheumatoid arthritis affecting your daily activities, family life, leisure time, and work?

The goal of treating rheumatoid arthritis is to manage symptoms, minimize damage, and prevent disability. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential. But even with an aggressive treatment plan, there is no arthritis cure, and there is no guarantee that the disease will not progress from mild to severe.

What can you do to stave off severe rheumatoid arthritis? Start by learning all you can about the disease. When symptoms first occur, consult a doctor or rheumatologist. Decide on a treatment plan with your doctor. Be compliant with the treatment plan. Be open and honest with your doctor about changes in your condition or any concerns that develop.

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Source:

Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. Arthritis Foundation. Thirteenth Edition.

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