Rheumatoid arthritis is a autoimmune condition. The condition occurs when the immune system, which is supposed to protect us, goes out of control and begins to attack our own body tissues. The disease causes inflammation in the liming of the joints (the synovium) and results in redness, warm feeling and painful swelling in the joints.
RA can occur on both sides of the body, where it affects both hands, both wrists or both knees. This is one sign that differentiates it from other forms of arthritis. RA is progressive and over time, it starts affecting other vital organs and parts of the body, including the eyes, heart, lungs, blood vessels and more.
Symptoms of RA
The most prominent warning sign of RA is joint pains and swelling in the joints on both sides of the body. There may be stiffness, early in the morning or when you sit in one position for a long time. Constant fatigue is also a very apparent sign of RA.
RA affects people in different ways. In some, the joint pain may occur over several years and in others, it will set in quickly. Some others will have RA for a few years and then it will go into remission with no symptoms until it resurfaces later after several years.
Who are at risk?
The disease is more common in women than in men. But when men do get affected there, the degree of pain will be much more than normally for women. Adults in their middle age are the worst affected and at risk to get affected. Sometimss’ young children and older people are also seen to be afflicted with RA.
What are the causes of RA?
Till now, the specific reason for the onset of RA has not been pinpointed. There is something that triggers the immune system to attack the joint cells and sometimes other organs too. Reserach tells that some kind of virus or bacteria may be changing the immune system, causing it to attack your joints. Specific other lifestyle causes include smoking.
How does RA affect the body?
Usually, the immune system cells move from the blood into your joints and tissues that line them. This kind of tissue is called the synovium. Once these cells arrive, they start the inflammation. This causes joint swelling as the fluid builds up inside it. Finally, the joints become painful, swollen and warm to touch.
The inflammation wears off the cartilage in the joints which is a tissue that covers the bones. As the cartilage is lost the space between bones decreases. The result is that soon the bones start rubbing against each other and they move out of place. The cells that cause inflammation contain other substances that are harmful to the bones.
The inflammation then spreads and affects other organs and systems all over the body.
How is RA diagnosed?
Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed through observation of the symptoms like painful joints, especially the hand joints. Joint stiffness, bumps and nodules under the skin and through an analysis of the certain X-rays and blood tests.
Treatments for RA
Treatments for RA include medications, ample rest, proper exercise and in very severe cases surgery would be recommended to correct damaged joints. There is no cure as such for RA but early and aggressive treatment will help prevent any disability and decrease the chance of remission.