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    The Basics of Arthritis

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    Types of Arthritis continued...

    Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. This can damage the joint surface and underlying bone.

    RA mostly targets your fingers, thumbs, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, feet, and ankles.

    It can give you pain, swelling, stiffness, and trouble with moving. You may also have:

    Gout is another form of arthritis that can be very painful. Uric acid buildup in the body causes needle-like crystal deposits to form in your joints. You might notice lumps under your skin called tophi.

    A lot of people see the first symptoms of gout in their big toe, which can get swollen, sore, red, and warm.

    Other areas that gout can attack include:

    • Foot instep
    • Ankles
    • Heels
    • Knees
    • Wrists
    • Fingers
    • Elbows

    Bouts of gout can come and go. The pain might become constant if you don't get the condition treated.

    You can treat it with medication, but you’ll also need to control your weight, limit alcohol, and cut down on meats and fish that have chemicals called purines.

    Other forms include:

    When to See a Doctor

    You might have occasional muscle or joint pain. That’s OK. But get help from your doctor if:

    • The pain, swelling, or redness isn’t going away.
    • Your symptoms get worse quickly.
    • You have relatives with autoimmune disorders.
    • You’ve got relatives with other arthritis-related diseases.

    Don’t ignore joint pain. In some cases, it can cause damage that can’t be reversed, even with treatment. When in doubt, talk to your doctor.

    How It's Diagnosed

    Your doctor or an arthritis specialist called a rheumatologist will:

    • Ask for your medical and family history.
    • Give you a physical exam.
    • Look for tenderness, swelling, redness, warmth, and loss of motion in the joints.
    • Take samples of your joint fluid and test them.
    • Do imaging scans, which may include X-rays, MRIs, or ultrasounds.
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