Rheumatoid Arthritis​


The definition of arthritis is inflammation (chemical reaction usually in response to injury or infection) of a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is a special type of arthritis mainly involving the small joints in your hands and feet. It is a chronic (long term) disease.

The age of onset is between twenty to forty years of age, although the "juvenile" variant does occur in children. Women are three times more likely to deal with Rheumatoid and there may be a hereditary component. ​

For unknown reasons, the defense system of your body attacks the lining of joints (synovium) by mistake, activating them to thicken. As this growth extends into the joint it results in destruction of cartilage and bone. The damage can be severe enough to deform the joints, making them swollen and difficult to move. A characteristic feature of Rheumatoid arthritis is that there is symmetric involvement of multiple joints at once. For example, the same joints invaded on the right hand, will also be the ones attacked on the left hand.  ​

It should be noted that this type of arthritis can also affect other organs in your body, such as your skin, eyes, lungs, blood vessels, nerves and kidneys. In the long run, there is an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, scarring of the lungs and heart problems.

When your joints are under attack, the following may bother you:

  • Stiffness of those joints, in the morning or after sitting for a long time. Usually lasts more than an hour, improving on use.

  • Painful, warm and swollen joints

  • Loss of joint function. You may find it difficult to perform daily activities (buttoning shirt, tying shoes, opening jars).

  • Firm bumps under the skin of your arms

  • Fatigue

  • Weight loss

  • Fever ​

If you experience any of the above mentioned symptoms, it is best to consult the Musculoskeletal and Sports Medicine Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital. Early detection and treatment is vital to improve function and prevent long term disability.  

You can also consult the Family Health Services for continuous screenings or a preliminary examination.

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so makes sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

After the primary physical examination, you may undergo some tests to assist your doctor in reaching a conclusion and suggesting an appropriate treatment. These will include:

  • Blood tests

  • Imaging tests including an x-ray

  • Joint fluid analysis will include extracting a sample of fluid from joint using a fine needle

  • Biopsy, if u have any lumps or bumps​

Rheumatoid arthritis does not have a permanent cure. However, your doctor will be committed to work with you to come up with a treatment plan to help manage your symptoms.

During active inflammation (pain, swelling, redness), rest is usually recommended for some time. Medications may be prescribed as oral tablets or joint injections. Typically these include anti-inflammatory, steroids and/or DMARDS (Disease Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs). DMARDS play a central role in delaying the progression of disease and prevention of joint damage.

Your doctor may suggest a therapeutic exercise program (physiotherapy), occupational therapy and splints. The surgical option is availed only in severe cases and if the above measures are unsuccessful down the road. As Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect other organs, your physician will also take relevant complaints into consideration. For example, eye drops can be given for dry or irritated eyes.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

 The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

 The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage




The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.