Rheumatoid Arthritis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Home Remedies

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a destructive joint disease that is caused by the inflammation in the tissue that normally produces lubrication fluid for joints. It is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints and other areas of the body. When this tissue remains inflamed, it leads to deformity by loosening joint ligaments and to joint destruction by eroding away cartilage and bone. This article helps you know in detail about causes, treatment and diagnosis of “Rheumatoid Arthritis”.

Disease is marked by inflammation and pain in joints, muscles or fibrous tissue, especially rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent joint destruction and deformity.

The joint damage that RA causes usually happens on both sides of the body. If a joint is affected in one of your arms or legs, the same joint in the other arm or leg will probably be affected. This is one way that doctors distinguish RA from other forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis.

The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known. Possible risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis include genetic background, smoking, silica inhalation, periodontal disease and microbes in the bowels (gut bacteria).

Signs And Symptoms

Signs and symptoms that affect both sides of the body. These symptoms and signs occur during periods known as exacerbations. Other times are known as periods of remission — this is when symptoms disappear completely.

  • Joint pain, such as in the joints of the feet, hands and knees.
  • Tender joints
  • Joint redness
  • Stiff joints
  • Limping
  • Swollen joints
  • Joint warmth
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Rheumatoid nodules
  • Loss of joint function and Joint deformity

People with active inflammation of joints from RA can also experience:

  • Depression
  • Frustration
  • Social withdrawal
  • Anaemia

RA symptoms come & go, depending on the degree of tissue inflammation. When body tissues are inflamed, the disease is active. When tissue inflammation subsides, the disease is inactive (remission). Remissions can occur spontaneously or with the treatment and can last weeks, months or years. During remissions, symptoms of the disease disappear, and people generally feel well. When the disease becomes active again (relapse), symptoms return. The return of disease activity and symptoms is called a “Flare“.


Diagnosing RA can take time and may require multiple lab tests to confirm clinical examination findings. Your doctor will use several tools to diagnose RA. Firstly, they’ll ask about your symptoms and medical history. They also perform a physical exam of your joints. This will include:

  • Testing your reflexes and muscle strength
  • Looking for swelling and redness
  • Examining joint function
  • Range of motion of joints
  • Touching the affected joints to check for warmth and tenderness

If they suspect RA, they’ll most likely refer you to a specialist called a rheumatologist.

Since no single test can confirm a diagnosis of RA, your healthcare provider or rheumatologist may use several different types of tests. Rheumatoid factor is detected in a simple blood test. As the “Rheumatoid factor” is an antibody, that can be found in the blood of 80% of people with rheumatoid arthritis.

They may also request certain imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, X-ray, or MRI. The American College of Rheumatology has developed a system for classifying rheumatoid arthritis that is primarily based upon the X-ray appearance of the joints. This system helps medical professionals classify the severity of your rheumatoid arthritis with respect to cartilage, ligaments and bone.

Stage I

  • No damage seen on X-rays, although there may be signs of bone thinning.

Stage II

  • On X-ray, evidence of bone thinning around a joint with or without slight bone damage.
  • Slight cartilage damage possible.
  • Joint mobility may be limited, no joint deformities observed.
  • Atrophy of adjacent muscles.
  • Abnormalities of soft tissue around joint possible.

Stage III

  • On X-ray, evidence of cartilage and bone damage and bone thinning around the joint
  • Joint deformity without permanent stiffening or fixation of the joint.
  • Extensive muscle atrophy.
  • Abnormalities of soft tissue around joint possible.

Stage IV

  • On X-ray, evidence of cartilage and bone damage and osteoporosis around joint.
  • Joint deformity with permanent fixation of the joint (ankylosis).
  • Extensive muscle atrophy.
  • Abnormalities of soft tissue around joint possible.
Rheumatologists also classify the functional status of people with rheumatoid arthritis as follows:
  • Class I: Completely able to perform usual activities of daily living.
  • Class II: Able to perform usual self-care and work activities but limited in activities outside of work (such as playing sports, household chores).
  • Class III: Able to perform usual self-care activities but limited in work and other activities.
  • Class IV: Limited in ability to perform usual self-care, work and other activities.


There is no cure for RA. Early RA treatment results in a better prognosis. The treatment rheumatoid arthritis optimally involves a combination of patient education, rest and exercise, joint protection, medicines and surgery. Treatments for RA help to manage the pain and control the inflammatory response which can in many cases result in remission. Decreasing the inflammation can also help to prevent further joint and organ damage.

Treatments may include:

  • Dietary changes
  • Specific types of exercises
  • Home remedies
  • Medications

NSAIDs (Non steroid anti-inflammatory drugs), DMARDs (Disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs), IL-6 inhibitors (interleukin 6), TNF alpha inhibitors (tumor necrosis factor), B-cell depleters, T-cell activation inhibitors, JAK inhibitors (Janus kinase), immunosuppressants and steroid treat RA.

Your doctor will work with you to determine the best treatment plan for your medical needs. For many people, these treatments help them live an active life and reduce the risk of long-term complications.

Exercises And Home Remedies For RA

Certain home remedies and lifestyle adjustments may help to improve your quality of life when living with RA. Impact loading joints can aggravate inflamed, active RA; it’s also difficult when joints have been injured in the past by the disease. So, it is important to customize activities and exercise programs according to each individual’s capacity. Physical therapy can be helpful.

  • Exercises are less traumatic for the joints, including yoga and tai chi, can be beneficial in maintaining flexibility and strength. They also lead to an improved general sense of well-being.
  • Proper regular exercise is important in maintaining joint mobility and in strengthening the muscles around the joints.
  • Swimming is particularly helpful because it allows exercise with minimal stress on the joints.
  • Physical and occupational therapists are trained to provide specific exercise instructions and can offer splinting supports.
  • For example, wrist and finger splints can be helpful in reducing inflammation and maintaining joint alignment.
  • Devices such as canes, toilet seat raiser and jar grippers can assist in the activities of daily living.
  • Heat and cold applications are modalities that can ease symptoms before and after exercise.