What is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
Approximately 1.5 million American suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and the disease is three times more common in women than in me. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints. This inflammation causes the joint tissue to become inflamed and swell, causing pain. If poorly managed, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to damage of the cartilage and bone within the joint. Over time, the joints can loosen and become unstable. Joint deformity is also seen in advanced cases of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the hands, knees, ankles, feet, elbows, and wrists. Most of the time the disease affects these joints bilaterally, meaning both sides of the body are affected similarly.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
The precise cause of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not fully understood. However, it is believed that both genetic and environmental factors can lead to the disease. A few genes involved in the regulation of the immune system have been linked to rheumatoid arthritis development. It is also believed that bacterial or viral infections may trigger the disease in those who are genetically predisposed to developing rheumatoid arthritis. Other factors thought to contribute to the development of rheumatoid arthritis are female hormones, obesity, and the individual’s response to stress, both physical and emotional. Environmental factors linked to rheumatoid arthritis are pollution, smoking, pesticides, and exposure to silica and mineral oil.
What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are generally milder during early phases of the disease. Symptoms include join pain, tenderness, stiffness, or swelling that lasts at least six weeks, stiffness in the morning, all of which may be symmetrical in their presentation (similar symptoms on both sides of the body). Those affected by rheumatoid arthritis may also experience fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Symptoms may come and go as the inflammation increases and decreases, respectively. Rheumatoid arthritis affects other body systems as well. Symptoms may include dry mouth, gum infections, dry eye, pain or redness of the eyes, sensitivity to light, small bumps under the skin (rheumatoid nodules), shortness of breath, and anemia.