Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which your immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. Normally, the immune system protects the body by attacking foreign bodies like bacteria and viruses. Yet, when someone suffers from rheumatoid arthritis the immune system fails to do so. Below is some key information about this disease.
About the Disease
- An estimate of 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffers from rheumatoid arthritis1.
- It’s a disease more common in women. Nearly three times the amount of women have the disease as men1.
- Women who suffer from the disease begin to experience its effects between the ages of 30 to 60. Men usually won’t see effects until later in life1.
Though the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, there are factors that tend to cause the disease, including your
- environment, and
In fact, your risk does increase if past family members have suffered from it1.
Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the joints in the smaller parts of the body, including the
- knees, and
The main symptoms include3:
- tender, warm, swollen joints
- joint stiffness that usually worsens in the mornings and after inactivity
- fever, and
- weight loss.
Inflammation causes the tissue that lines up with the inside of joints to thicken. This results in swelling and pain in and around the joints1. If inflammation is not treated, it can damage the cartilage and the bones. As the cartilage is damaged it begins to fade and the joint spacing between bones can become smaller1.
In fact, joint deformity is also a symptom of the disease. Since joint damage cannot be reversed and it can occur early, doctors recommend early diagnosis and aggressive treatment to control RA1.
Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult because
- there is no single test to diagnose the disease,
- the symptoms can be the same as other joint diseases symptoms, and
- it can take time for the symptoms to develop2.
Rheumatologists specialize in the joints and will usually look at
- medical history,
- physical exam,
- x-rays, and
- lab tests
to try to diagnose the disease2.
Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis involves
- lifestyle changes to keep a good balance between rest and exercise,
- medicine to lower pain and swelling,
- surgery to reduce pain and improve mobility, and
- physical therapy2.
The main goals of these treatments are to reduce pain and swelling, slow the disease, and help people feel in control over the disease2. Another form of treatment is nutritional supplements. Certain nutrients target certain symptoms and problem areas of this disease. If you are deficient, the disease may take a larger toll and increase symptom severity and progression.
If you have questions concerning RA, speak with your physician and he/she can give you options or refer you to a rheumatologist or other specialist.
1- What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2017, from http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/rheumatoid-arthritis/what-is-rheumatoid-arthritis.php
2- What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public. (2014, November). Retrieved February 09, 2017, from https://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/rheumatic_disease/rheumatoid_arthritis_ff.asp
3- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, March 18). Rheumatoid Arthritis. Retrieved February 09, 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/dxc-20197390