An overview of Rheumatoid Arthritis
An autoimmune disorder is one where the body's immune system becomes confused and begins to "attack" other parts of the body.
A localized redness, warmth, swelling, and pain as a result of infection, irritation, or injury. Inflammation can be external or internal.
Firm, rubbery tissue that cushions bones at joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis, often called RA, is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. RA is an autoimmune disorder in which your own body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation and damage to your joints.
About 1% of the Canadian adult population suffers from RA. Patients usually develop the signs and symptoms of the disease between the ages of 35 and 50, with women affected almost 2 to 3 times more often than men.
RA differs from osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type of arthritis, which people most often experience later in life. Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage breaks down, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion in the joint. It is common for most people to experience symptoms of OA by the time they are 80 years old; however, many may feel symptoms in their 40s or 50s.
When your body has an infection, it's usually caused by a substance that your body recognizes as foreign. Because an outside or foreign substance can cause harm, your immune system responds by sending specialized cells to the infected area to remove it. Once the cause of the infection is gone or under control, the immune system should return to its normal state.
However, scientists have found that people with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis produce high levels of these same kinds of specialized cells. These specialized cells invade the joints and cause their linings to become swollen and painful. This inflammation may contribute to joint damage as well as affect other parts of the body. Therefore, it's important to be aware of the overall impact of RA. Also, learning some tips for living with RA may be a helpful first step toward managing your disease.
Know more about Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects people in various ways. Most people with RA have tender, warm, or swollen joints. A symmetrical pattern of affected joints is a characteristic of RA, meaning that if one knee has swelled, the other has too. Joints of the hand, including the wrist or fingers, are often inflamed, making them painful and difficult to move. Sometimes, people experience stiffness in the joints in the morning lasting 30 minutes or more. RA may also limit or be aggravated by your level of physical activity. The disease can also affect your ability to take care of yourself or even go to work.
Knowing how these areas of your life and daily routine have changed since you began experiencing symptoms may be helpful for your doctor to determine the severity of your RA. To take a proactive approach in starting a discussion with your doctor and becoming more aware of your disease, try using the Symptoms Evaluator to answer questions about your RA symptoms. Then print out the results and bring it to your appointment with your family doctor or rheumatologist to begin a conversation about RA and how to manage your disease.
Getting treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treating RA sooner than later may result in less damage to your joints. This is especially true since joint damage can take place despite minimal symptoms. That's why it's important to see a rheumatologist. Why a rheumatologist? An early diagnosis and treatment program from a rheumatologist may potentially slow further irreversible joint damage. This is why communication is key to getting the help and information you need. Maintaining a dialogue with a rheumatologist may lead to a better understanding of the risks and benefits of current treatment options.