What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Arthritis, Healthy Aging, Healthy Living, Rheumatoid Arthritis
on June 7, 2011

Rheumatoid arthritis is a degenerative and possibly crippling disease that generally progresses very rapidly. The actual cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown for certain, though it behaves like an autoimmune disorder — that is, the immune system attacks joint lining just as it would a foreign object. Rheumatoid arthritis generally effects joints on both sides of the body equally and does not seem to be affected by the amount of impact or stress on a particular joint, unlike other common forms of arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Arthritis sufferers may experience stiffness after very short periods of inactivity, as well as frequent joint pain. Joints are often red and inflamed and, in serious cases, may only be able to move with difficulty. These symptoms may be coupled with fatigue, swelling in the lymph nodes, chest pain and other symptoms that you may not readily recognize as rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Risk factors of rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike other types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can strike at any age. Little is known about what may trigger it, but the incidences are higher in women than men. A higher incidence is shown in women over 40, and those with a family history of rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to have it themselves. Studies show some correlation between rheumatoid arthritis and smoking.

What to expect with rheumatoid arthritis. In most cases, rheumatoid arthritis sufferers can expect to eventually have joint replacement surgery in one or more major joint (hip, shoulder, elbow, knee, etc.). According to the National Library of Health, “Joint destruction may occur within one to two years after the disease appears.” However, there are many types of treatment possibilities, before reaching that point, that may effectively slow the progression of the disease.

Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. Before resorting to surgery, rheumatoid arthritis suffers may benefit from a number of different treatment options to remain functional. These may come in the form of exercises, medications and possibly local injections targeted at the affected joints. Medications for rheumatoid arthritis range from over-the-counter NSAIDs (Aspirin, Ibuprofen), to corticosteroids and prescription anti-inflammatories, to biologics (Enbrel, Actemra) that work directly on different factors that contribute to autoimmune dysfunction.