Rheumatoid Arthritis Below the Surface

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When people hear the words “rheumatoid arthritis,” symptoms like joint pain, swelling, and stiffness likely come to mind. What many people may not realize, however, is that these symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg.

When a person has RA, inflammation is always lurking and active in the background. This inflammation leads to more than just the symptoms listed above—it can also cause serious, underlying problems that can’t be seen or felt. Test your knowledge of RA underneath the surface by taking the interactive quiz below.

Scroll down to get started.

1
1

JOINT PAIN, STIFFNESS,
AND SWELLING

True or false?

Common symptoms of RA include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, but RA can also lead to serious, underlying problems that can’t be seen or felt.


Correct.

Actually, this
statement is True.

In RA, inflammation causes more than just joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. If left untreated, it can lead to irreversible cartilageCLOSE Joint cartilage: tissue that covers the ends of the bones, providing cushion for a joint. , tendonCLOSE Tendon: tissue that connects muscle to bone and allows movement of a structure. , and ligamentCLOSE Ligament: tissue that connects bone to bone—holding structures together and providing stability. damage as well as bone erosionCLOSE Bone erosion: bone tissue breaks down over time due to an imbalance in the immune system. .

2
2

Chronic Autoimmune
Disease

True or false?

A chronic autoimmune disease is a condition that is short-lived and will eventually go away with treatment.


Correct.

Actually, this
statement is False.

RA is a chronic autoimmune disease, meaning it’s a life-long condition in which a person’s immune systemCLOSE Immune system: the body’s natural defense mechanism that responds to infection, injury, and diseases. It can also help heal damaged tissues. attacks joint tissue by mistake. There’s currently no known cure for RA, but certain medications may help to relieve symptoms and prevent joint damage.

3
3
Irreversible Joint Damage
and Daily Functioning

True or false?

Joint damage can affect a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks.


Correct.

Actually, this
statement is True.

If left untreated or undertreated, the irreversible joint damage caused by RA can lead to loss of normal joint movement, making it difficult to complete everyday tasks like walking, climbing, reaching, and gripping.

4
4

Treatment

True or false?

The only goal of treatment is to control symptoms that can be seen and felt, like joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.


Correct.

Actually, this
statement is False.

Goals of treatment should include the following: first, an RA treatment should help to relieve symptoms that are seen and felt, like joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. It should also help to reduce inflammation, prevent or slow joint damage, and improve a person’s ability to function in everyday life.

5
5

Symptoms Coming
and Going

True or false?

When the symptoms of RA fade or disappear, treatment should be stopped.


Correct.

Actually, this
statement is False.

The symptoms of RA come in flaresCLOSE Flares: periods of increased disease activity. and fade or disappear in periods of decreased disease activity. Even though symptoms may disappear, inflammation—which can lead to irreversible joint damage—is always working in the background. As a result, it’s critical that treatment is continued exactly as prescribed by a person’s doctor.

6
6
Tracking RA

True or false?

A rheumatologist looks at more than just joint pain and swelling to determine if a person’s RA is under control.


Correct.

Actually, this
statement is True.

A rheumatologist knows if RA is under control by asking the patient about his or her symptoms, doing a physical exam of specific joints and tallying how many are tender or swollen, and conducting lab tests.

7
7

Emotional Health

True or false?

RA impacts more than just the joints—it can also take a toll on a person’s emotional health.


Correct.

Actually, this
statement is True.

Many people with RA experience struggles outside of just joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. RA can take a toll on other areas of a person’s life like their self-esteem, relationships, and even their ability to complete everyday tasks. As a result, emotional support is an important part of managing RA.