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What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which your immune system becomes hyperactive and starts attacking your joints. Although any joints can be affected by rheumatoid arthritis, small joints of the hands and feet are particularly affected. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect organs such as eyes and lungs. RA causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited range of motion of the affected joints. If left untreated, RA can lead to permanent joint damage. 

Who is susceptible to developing this disorder?
It is not clear what actually causes rheumatoid arthritis. Genetics and the environment may all play roles in triggering the disease. RA can occur in almost anyone, at any time, but the disease is more common in women than in men and more likely to develop with age, although more common in the 4th and 6th decade of life. Although some people have a genetic predisposition for the disease, it can also develop in people with no family history.

How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?
If you are experiencing pain, tenderness, and swelling in your joints, you should first consult your primary care physician. He or she will likely refer you to a rheumatologist for further examination if your symptoms are suggestive of rheumatoid arthritis. Although there is no definitive test for RA, a rheumatologist will use a combination of certain blood tests, a physical examination of your joints, imaging (such as X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI), and lab results, along with details about your personal and family history to make a diagnosis.

What does treatment involve?
Fortunately, treatment for RA has advanced in recent years. Today, a variety of treatments are available ranging from medications to physical therapy to surgery, if needed. However, since there is no cure for RA, the goal of treatment is focused on reducing or eliminating inflammation and relieving your symptoms. Studies have shown that early diagnosis and early treatment with disease modifying agents can reduce pain and inflammation and halt the progression of the disease and prevent further joint damage. It’s also important to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, including regular low-impact exercises, such as walking and resistance training. It is often recommended that patients who are undergoing treatment have regular checkups to monitor disease activity and to ensure that treatment is effective.

What is the long-term prognosis for people with rheumatoid arthritis?
If left untreated, RA can lead to permanent joint damage. Active disease also puts one at risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and ultimately, an earlier mortality. However, with proper treatment, RA patients can expect to lead a normal life and a normal lifespan.

Dr. Badhan is a Board Certified Rheumatologist who specializes in treating a full spectrum of autoimmune diseases. After obtaining her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University of California, Davis, she pursued her medical degree from St. Matthews University. Dr. Badhan completed her residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, followed by her Fellowship in Rheumatology at Ohio State University. Dr. Badhan is trained in performing musculoskeletal ultrasounds, as well as ultrasound guided joint injections. She treats a wide array of autoimmune diseases, including psoriatic arthritis, myositis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and vasculitis. Dr. Badhan also treats gout and osteoporosis among other conditions.

NewYork-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital
1985 Crompond Road, Bldg A
Cortlandt Manor, NY 10567

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Shalene Badhan, MD
More about Dr. Badhan