Rheumatoid ArthritisDr. Howard Liss treats disorders that cause pain and disability by providing consultative services and soft tissue and joint injections when needed. When medically appropriate, he makes specific referrals for diagnostic testing (lab work, imaging, electrodiagnosis), physical and occupational therapy, interventional procedures (epidurals and facet joint injections), and surgery.
Affecting nearly 2 million Americans, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is classified as an autoimmune disease in which an individual’s immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation and thickening of the tissue (synovium) lining them. Inflammation impairs the ability of the synovium tissue to provide lubrication for smooth joint movement. In addition, it causes irreversible damage to cartilage if left untreated. The space between the joints can also deteriorate. As a result, individuals experience chronic aching and pain as joints become unstable and loose.
Though rheumatoid arthritis is most commonly associated with joint pain in the hands, it can affect the feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles. As a rule, if RA affects one hand, it will affect the other and so on. For this reason, the joint effect is described as symmetrical. Aside from the damaging effects of RA on the joints, it may affect other systems, including the cardiovascular and respiratory system. Thus, as a systemic disease RA affects the entire body.
While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, early treatment and pain management is vital to protect joints, organs and other systems from further damage and to maintain some degree of function.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Though symptoms of RA can come and go, early signs and symptoms begin progressively and may not raise any red flags. For instance, individuals may experience tenderness or mild achiness in small joints such as the wrists, hands or feet. They may also experience episodes of morning stiffness that last 30 minutes or longer. It’s important to understand that if you notice these symptoms regularly for six weeks or longer, it could be a sign of RA.
As inflammation levels continue to rise, individuals may report additional symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite or a low-grade fever. Even so, when inflammation is left unchecked, other organs and systems are at risk. Consider the following:
- may become dry, red, sensitive to light and vision may become impaired
- may become dry and gums may become infected
- may develop small lumps beneath the skin over bony areas (rheumatoid nodules)
- may develop shortness of breath due to inflammation and scarring
- Blood vessels
- may lead to nerve damage as a result of inflammation of blood vessels
- may lead to anemia or lower level of red blood cells
Treatment and Rehabilitation for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Without question, early and aggressive treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is best to combat the damaging effects of inflammation. Yet, because of the systemic nature of RA, physiatrists provide a great advantage to patients suffering with RA by taking a multidisciplinary approach to treatment and rehabilitation.
Physiatrists address multiple systems and how they contribute to the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment and rehabilitation are centered on maximizing a patient’s level of functioning. Yet, the use of medication, physical therapy and injections prove useful for reducing inflammation so that patients can move forward with rehabilitation. In some cases, physiatrists employ the use of electromyogram and nerve conduction studies to determine if a patient’s symptoms are a result of a muscular condition or nerve condition. Thus, as they attempt to pinpoint a patient’s pain, they are also provided with important diagnostic information that contributes to a higher level of patient care.
At the Howard Liss, M.D. Rehabilitation Institute, patients can rely on Dr. Liss to put together the right treatment, therapy and rehabilitation plan to ensure the most optimal outcome. Dr. Liss works closely with other specialists required to rehabilitate patients suffering from chronic pain or serious injuries, and Dr. Liss will refer patients as needed to ensure appropriate treatment. With extensive education and exposure to a variety of conditions that affect the cervical and lumbar spine, bones, nerves, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, brain, and spinal cord, Dr. Liss is uniquely positioned to help patients manage their pain and maximize their functioning.
To schedule your appointment, contact the Howard Liss, M.D. Rehabilitation Institute in Tenafly today.