What You Should Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis due to autoimmune disease. In normal condition, the immune system protects the body from the attack of foreign substances. Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, especially the joint’s synovial tissue. It can cause chronic inflammation of the joints and other areas of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the same joints on both sides of the body, such as the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, and feet.

image rheumatoid_arthritisIn severe cases, this progressive illness causes permanent joint destruction and deformity that lead to functional disability. The joints may dislocate and freeze in one position. It can also affect other organs, such as the lung tissue, tendons and ligaments, membrane around the heart, blood vessels and white of the eye. No wonder why rheumatoid arthritis is regarded as the most serious and disabling of all forms of arthritis.

The common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:

  • Joints stiffness in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
  • You may feel the warmth on the joint when touching it.
  • Pain on the same joint on both sides of the body.
  • The joints gradually lose the range of motion and restrict the patient’s mobility.
  • Muscle and joint aches.
  • Fatigue and low-grade fever.
  • When the small joints of the feet are affected, it can lead to painful walking.

Rheumatoid arthritis can happen to anyone, but apparently it is three times more common in women as in men. The disease can also begin at any age, even children (called as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis). The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, though some factors are associated to this disease, such as: genetic factor and infectious agents (viruses, bacteria). Nevertheless, not all people with the disease have these genes and not all people with these genes develop rheumatoid arthritis. Environmental factors, such as smoking, also seem to contribute to the development of rheumatoid arthritis. It does not only boost the risk of developing the disease among people with a specific gene, but also increase the severity and reduce the effectiveness of treatment.

The diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis involves some methods which are complementary or enhance each other, such as: reviewing the history of symptoms; examining the presence of blood rheumatoid factor and citrulline antibody; and and X-ray test.

Rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured and the cause is not yet known. Early diagnosis and treatments are important to avoid further joint destruction, organ damage and disability. Without proper treatments, a permanent damage of joint might happen in two or three years. However, the treatments should be taken carefully since it can cause serious side effects. Always consult with the doctor to know possible complications that may occur and how to deal with them.


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