Rheumatoid arthritis: diagnosing and treating

October 5, 2015

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis, and affecting many joints in the body. It affects only about one per cent of Canadians, mostly women. RA can begin at any age, but commonly develops in young adults.

Rheumatoid arthritis: diagnosing and treating


  • Today, someone diagnosed with RA can expect to receive early and aggressive treatment with powerful drugs that can have serious side effects: all the more reason, experts say, to avoid a rush to diagnostic judgment.
  • When the presence of RA is unclear, the best of all diagnostic tests is the test of time. It may take a few weeks or months of repeated assessment, but a true case of RA will eventually reveal itself.

Where to turn for help

Many hospitals offer arthritis rehabilitation programs and the Arthritis Society provide both information and classes nationwide. But there are plenty of other places people with arthritis can find exercise instruction and/or classes. To find a program or get more information, try contacting the organizations listed here.

  • The YMCA/YWCA: Both organizations feature exercise programs for older people, ranging from general fitness classes to pool-based water exercise courses. Call your local chapter for class offerings and schedules.
  • Community centres: Local health or senior centres often sponsor exercise classes appropriate for people with arthritis. Check the Yellow Pages under "senior citizen service" or "healthcare centres" for locations.
  • The Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance: Canada-wide advocacy group that aims to improve the quality of life for arthritis patients. For more information, contact them at 416-979-7228 or capasecretariat@arthritis.ca.
  • Health clubs: The local gym may be full of muscle-bound people in spandex, but it's also a likely place to find classes appealing to people with more complex needs. Look in the Yellow Pages under "health clubs" or "gymnasiums."
  • The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine: Check its website at www.sportsmed.org for a suggested 40-minute exercise program called TEAM — Twenty Exercises for Arthritis Management.

Rheumatic rundownPainful, swollen joints occur in a large number of joint ailments. Here is a rundown of rheumatic diseases with similar symptoms:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Arthritis associated with psoriasis
  • Reiter's syndrome
  • Gout
  • Pseudogout
  • Bursitis

A large-scale study published in 1994 found that an average of nine months elapsed between the time RA patients first noticed symptoms and when they were finally diagnosed with RA.

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