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Arthritis Can Lead to Disability: Doctor

Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease that can cause the bodies immune system to attack the joints, can lead to disability, a doctor said Monday.

"Your immune system protects your body against foreign invaders such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, but with rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system loses its ability to tell the difference between these foreign invaders and the normal cells of the body," said Dr. Taing Tek Hong, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

Swelling, pain, stiffness, redness, and a warm sensation on the joints are signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, he said, adding that the disease can strike any joint in the body.

Rheumatoid arthritis can last for years, and patients may experience long periods without symptoms, he said. Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive illness that has the potential to cause joint destruction and functional disability.

A listener from Kampong Cham said he had a chronic pain in his knees and his wrists for 10 years. He wanted to know how to get rid of the arthritis.

"The degree of rheumatoid arthritis varies from patient to patient," Taing Tek Hong said.

Patients with a disease that has quieted after years of activity can be managed with rest, pain and anti-inflammatory medications alone. Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Advil, and Motrin are examples anti-inflammatory drugs that can reduce tissue inflammation, pain, and swelling.

Most patients require more aggressive second-line drugs, in addition to anti-inflammatory agents. Sometimes these second-line drugs are used in combination. In some patients with severe joint deformity, surgery may be necessary.

Corticosteroid medications can be given orally or injected directly into tissues and joints.