Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a debilitating and painful illness.
About 1.5 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis today.
RA causes chronic inflammation of the joints and other areas of the body.
Because it affects the joints, it has a severe impact on the person’s quality of life.
RA affects not only a person’s mobility, but their ability to perform many simple tasks too.
33% of people suffering from RA become permanently disabled and 50% of these will never return to a normal life.
Although the two are often confused, RA is not the same as Osteoarthritis.
When individuals are diagnosed with RA, it means the lining of the joints are attacked.
Approximately 20% to 30% of people with RA also have fibromyalgia.
RA it’s caused by an abnormal immune reaction.
RA, along with several other conditions, are described as an autoimmune disease.
In people diagnosed with an autoimmune diseases, the immune system turns on itself for reasons modern medicine has not been able to diagnose as of yet.
During this sequence of self-destruction, otherwise healthy parts of the body come under attack.
The immune system is made up of several organs, specialized cells and antibodies.
It is the body’s natural defense and its armor against foreign invasion.
When a foreign substance like a virus or bacteria invades the body, the immune system responds in several ways to try and eliminate the threat before it spreads.
In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the faulty immune system targets the tissue and other materials which make up the joint.
When this occurs, antibodies, defense cells and fluids swarm around the affected site causing inflammation.
Rheumatoid arthritis is extremely painful cause of deformities and immobility, especially in the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles.
It causes deformities and immobility, especially in the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles.
RA typically affects:
- Joints attaching fingers to the hands
- Middle joints of the fingers
- Joints attaching toes to the feet
Eventually, RA destroys the joints themselves.
RA is also known to affect other parts of the body.
Sign & Symptoms
- Swollen joints
- Joint warmth
- Joint tenderness
- Joint redness
- Loss of joint function
- Tenderness and deformity
How Is It Diagnosed?
It is only through a combination of blood tests, x-rays, scans in conjunction with a physical exam that the condition can be correctly diagnosed and treated.
- Location and symmetry of the joints ( especially hands)
- Swelling or fluid around three or more joints
- Abnormal amounts of rheumatoid factor in the blood
- Degeneration of bone around the joints
- Morning stiffness in and around the joints
- Bumps and nodules apparent under the skin
The “rheumatoid factor” is an antibody found in the blood of 80% of people diagnosed with RA.
In combination with signs and symptoms, it plays a big role in diagnosing the condition.
Everybody is susceptible to RA.
Damage typically results from inflammation of the blood vessels supplying the specific area, or inflammation of the organ tissue itself.
Causes may even include viral infections or hormone changes.
Although both sexes are susceptible to RA, women between the ages of 30-60 are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed.
Studies show that exposure to silica mineral, chronic periodontal disease, all increase your risk of developing RA.
Even traffic pollution has been fingered as playing a part in the development of RA.
Tobacco plays a major role in one-third of severe cases.
There are certain genes which have been identified, which actually increase the risk for rheumatoid arthritis.
However, the inheritance pattern of rheumatoid arthritis is unclear.
Did you know that the further away from the equator you are, the higher your risk of RA?
This is said to be due to lack of sunlight and other environmental factors.
Studies show that people with the lowest intake of vitamin D had the highest risk of developing RA.
Fast Facts About RA
RA can vary in acuteness from person to person.
Some people only experience swelling of the synovium, the soft tissue found between the joint capsule and the joint cavity.
Others may simply feel the stiffness common to that of arthritis sufferers.
In about 10%-20% of RA patients, the disease goes into remission during the early stages, or never develops beyond a mild case.
About 1 in 10 RA patients will experience severe joint damage due to bone and cartilage decay.
If left untreated, permanent disfigurement can result.
In some RA patients, the malfunctioning immune system can also target other organs in the body, such as the eyes and lungs, as well as the membrane around the heart.
Treatment for RA focuses on:
- Relieving pain
- Reducing joint stress
- Reducing inflammation
- Preserve full range of motion
- Slow down or stop joint damage
For more information on how to treat RA, please read Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis Effectively.