It is estimated that by 2040, about 26 percent of adults in the United States over the age of 18 will be afflicted with some kind of arthritis. The most common and most disabling type of autoimmune arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The term “arthritis” refers to inflammation of the joint. In RA, this problem occurs because of a defective immune system that attacks the lining of the membrane surrounding your joints, known as the synovium. When this happens, the ligaments and tendons that hold your joints together can become weakened or stretched out. Furthermore, the bone and cartilage in the joints can eventually become destroyed due to inflammation of the synovium.
What Are The Causes?
Scientists do not yet know the exact cause of RA, but there are certain risk factors that can contribute to the onset of this ailment. Sex, age, and genetics seem to play a part in those affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Are You Susceptible?
Studies show that you can get RA at any age, although it more frequently begins between the ages of 40 and 50. This disease is three times more common in women than men. However, when men do get the disease, their symptoms are much more severe.
If someone in your family had RA, your risk of getting it is higher.
Studies also indicate that exposure to certain environmental agents such as asbestos or silica can make you vulnerable to this disease. Smoking can increase your risk, and obesity can also play a role in your likelihood of getting RA.
What Are The Symptoms?
This disease progresses over time, first affecting the smaller joints and then spreading to the hips, shoulders, elbows and knees. Keep in mind, however, that it can affect any or all the joints in your body. In addition, there are instances where the disease does not affect the joints at all. Instead, the heart, nerves, blood vessels, salivary glands, lungs, kidneys, skin, bone marrow and eyes can also become affected.
Other Signs of RA
You may notice symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss or fever. Mayoclinic.org says that RA can also lead to a host of other illnesses such as lung disease, lymphoma, carpal tunnel syndrome, and osteoporosis. It can also cause increased infections because some of the medications used to treat RA can impair your immune system.
Is There a Cure?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, early treatment can help to keep major complications to a minimum.
How Is It Treated?
Early treatment can prevent deformity caused by the shifting of the joints, and it can also cause the disease to go into remission. The exact type of treatment you receive is often determined by your age, medical history and the severity of your disease. Typical treatments often include medication, but in extreme cases where the joints are severely damaged, corrective surgery might be recommended.