Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common inflammatory disease of the joints. It causes pain, bruising and stiffness, particularly in the fingers and toes. Cooling during a pain episode can bring relief, but treatment with anti-inflammatory medication is advisable in the long term.
The wrist and small finger joints are often affected. Symptoms tend to come and go in 'flares'.
- Pain (gets worse with movement)
- Stiff joints (particularly in the morning)
- Red skin
- Misalignment of joints (in particular the fingers)
- General feeling of being unwell
- Weakness, fatigue
- Skin rashes
- Recurring fever
As the disease progresses it can also affect other organs (e.g. inflammation of tendons, tendon sheaths, heart, skin and/or eyes).
Causes and treatment
- Autoimmune disorder
- Cause is unclear
- Suspected to be genetic predisposition, coupled with an infection by a pathogen that triggers a defence response
Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital
- Careful examination of the affected joints
- Blood tests (typical “rheumatoid factors”)
- X-ray (e.g. hands)
- Ultrasound (sonography)
- Joint aspiration to remove fluid from swollen joints (using a needle and syringe)
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
What can I do myself?
- Keep the painful joint at rest during a flare-up
- Cooling compresses or ointments
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When to see a doctor?
- Painful joints that are usually stiff in the morning
- Regularly recurring swelling, redness and pain in the joints
- Misalignment of joints (in particular hands and feet)