Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, progressive, and disabling autoimmune disease. It causes inflammation, swelling, and pain in and around the joints and can affect other body organs. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the hands and feet first, but it can occur in any joint. It usually involves the same joints on both sides of the body.
In contrast to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually cause bone erosion and joint deformities. The inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis is what can damage other parts of the body as well.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Generally, the immune system fights invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. With rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakes the body cells for foreign invaders and releases inflammatory chemicals that attack those cells. It gets thicker and makes the joint area feel painful and tender and look red and swollen, and moving the joint may be difficult. Rheumatoid arthritis is also activated by a trigger in the environment, such as a virus or bacteria, physical or emotional stress, or some other external factor.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
In the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis, the smaller joints, especially the fingers and toes, tend to be affected first. As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders. Symptoms include:
- Tender, warm, swollen joints
- Joint stiffness that occurs in the mornings and after inactivity
- Fatigue, fever, and loss of appetite
- Symmetrical joint involvement
- A general feeling of being unwell
- Appetite loss and weight loss
- Joint deformity
- Loss of function and mobility
- Unsteadiness when walking
The 4 Risk Factors of Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Gender and age. Women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, but it most commonly begins in middle age.
- Family history. Having a family history of RA increases your risk of the disease.
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking increases your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking also appears to be associated with greater disease severity.
- Excess weight. Obesity increases your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
How to Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The Early stages of Rheumatoid arthritis are difficult to diagnose due to its symptoms that mimic other conditions. Blood tests and imaging tests may help your doctor with the diagnosis along with a physical exam. Your doctor will check your joints or the affected area for warmth, redness, and swelling.
Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
The medication recommended by your doctor depends on the severity of the condition. Treatment begins early with medications known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. Doctors may recommend NSAIDs or Steroids. Medications for Rheumatic Arthritis: