An autoimmune disease is a condition where an individual’s immune system sends erroneous information to healthy body organs and tissues, instead of attacking foreign viruses and dangerous bacteria. This reaction causes inflammation, swelling, and pain in the healthy area, possibly causing more damage with time and if it is left unattended. Rheumatoid arthritis is the single most common type of autoimmune arthritis, showing symptoms of pain and inflammation in the joints, and in some cases, some internal organs. As a chronic ailment, it can affect more than just your joints.
Even though RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) can appear at any point in life, ages between 30 and 50 are the most critical and most likely to be diagnosed at. The causes that can lead to the development of RA are still unclear, although it has been shown that certain genes can make someone more likely to get the disease. This disease affects women in a particular way, and it is known that 3% to 5% of females are likely to suffer from some type of RA in their lives. Also, it is more common in women than in men; in fact, 75% of RA patients are women.
Risk factors for this condition are many, but a person is more likely to develop it if he or she is 60 years old or more. Chances of getting RA become higher with obesity and tobacco addiction. At the same time, patients with this condition are at a higher risk of other types of diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. RA can appear in unexpected ways, and flare-ups can happen even after a remission period. In some extreme cases, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and stress. The symptoms that an RA patient can have, throughout the entire body are the following ones (in most cases):
- Pain and swelling of more than one joint.
- Stiffness in the joints, especially in the mornings.
- Joint deformity.
- Unsteadiness while performing some daily activities, like walking.
- Loss of function and mobility.
Is there more than one type of RA?
In fact, there are several types of RA. The most widely known varieties are the following:
- Seropositive RA: It means that you had a positive rheumatoid factor blood test result, so your immune system will attack the joints with antibodies.
- Seronegative RA: It means you have symptoms of the disease, but your rheumatoid factor blood test result is negative. However, with time, you could develop the antibodies.
- JIA (Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis): People who develop RA before the age of 17 falls under this category. It also includes eye inflammation and difficulties with physical development.
Which joints are more likely to be affected by RA?
In the early stages of RA, the areas that can suffer from pain and discomfort are the smaller joints like the ones in your fingers and toes. If the condition moves forward, it can reach the wrists, ankles, elbows, hips, knees, and shoulders. One important detail to be taken into consideration is that symptoms occur in both joints on each side of the body.
How can RA be distinguished from other conditions?
In 2010, the American College of Rheumatology suggested these criteria when diagnosing RA:
- Swelling should be present in at least one joint, and it cannot have another cause.
- Blood results from at least one test must show the presence of RA.
- Symptoms have been showing for at least 6 weeks.
Is there a cure for RA?
Unfortunately, a cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis has not been found yet. However, treatments have gotten significantly better over the years. For better and faster results, without causing too much trauma and permanent damage to your joints, medications like DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs) and therapy are essential from the very beginning.
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