What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Written by: Dr. Ali Khatau

Posted at: 2022-04-03 13:58:01

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. It starts when your immune system, which is supposed to protect you, goes awry and begins to attack your body’s own tissues. It causes inflammation in the lining of your joints. As a result, your joints may get red, warm, swollen, and painful. RA affects joints on both sides of the body, such as both hands, both wrists, or both knees. This symmetry helps to set it apart from other types of arthritis. Over time, RA can affect other body parts and systems, from your eyes to your heart, lungs and more. Symptoms • Joint pain and swelling • Stiffness, especially in the morning or after you sit for a long time • Fatigue Rheumatoid arthritis affects everyone differently. For some, joint symptoms happen gradually over several years. In others, it may come on quickly. Who Gets Rheumatoid Arthritis? Anyone can get RA. The disease is 2-3 times more common in women than in men, but men tend to have more severe symptoms. It usually starts in middle age. But young children and the elderly also can get it. Causes The exact cause is unknown. Something seems to trigger the immune system to attack your joints and, sometimes, other organs. Some experts think a virus or bacteria may change your immune system, causing it to attack your joints. Other theories suggest that in some people, smoking may lead to rheumatoid arthritis. Certain genetic patterns may make some people more likely to get RA. How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosed? There is no single test that shows whether you have RA. Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed from a combination of things, including: • The location and symmetry of painful joints, especially the hand joints • Joint stiffness in the morning • Bumps and nodules under the skin (rheumatoid nodules) • Results of X-rays and blood tests Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Treatments include medications, rest, exercise, and, in some cases, surgery to correct joint damage. Your options will depend on several things, including your age, overall health, medical history, and how severe your case is. You need to be active, but you also have to pace yourself. During flare-ups, when inflammation gets worse, it’s best to rest your joints. When the inflammation eases, it’s a good idea to exercise. It’ll keep your joints flexible and strengthen the muscles that surround them. Low-impact activities, like brisk walking or swimming can help.

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