Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition of inflamed body joints. The synovium lining becomes inflamed in response to the presence of white blood cells. Cartilage, bone, tendons, and ligaments may be damaged in response to this rheumatoid process. Eventual joint destruction can occur. Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include joint pain and swelling, fatigue, fever, and weight loss. Smaller joints of the wrists, hands, ankles and feet are likely to be affected first, followed by progression to other joints such as the elbows, hips, and knees.
Although there is no cure available for rheumatoid arthritis, treatments are available. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are available both over-the-counter and in prescription strength for the relief of pain and inflammation. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are medications that work to decrease inflammation, pain, and joint damage. Examples include hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine). Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha blockers such as infliximab (Remicade), etanercept (Enbrel), and adalimumab (Humira) are medications that stop the progression of arthritis by blocking a step in the inflammation process.