6 Important Things to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is not just a pain in the joints that your grandma complains about. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis happens when your immune system starts to attack your joints leading to severe pain, swelling, and inflammation. According to the American College of Rheumatology, the condition most often occurs in adults between the ages of 30 and 50.

In fact, rheumatoid arthritis is not common among all cases of arthritis. About 1.3 million people are affected by it. Below, you will find six things you need to know about rheumatoid arthritis.

1. Rheumatoid arthritis is not the same as osteoarthritis.

People often associate the word “arthritis” with the most common form of arthritis called osteoarthritis. It’s provoked by wear and tear resulting in inflammation and degeneration of the joints (commonly knees, hips, and shoulders). However rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the lining of the joints. In some cases, rheumatoid can also attack the skin, provoke lung and eye inflammation, increase the risk for heart attack and stroke, and damage the blood vessels.

2. Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than in men.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, nearly 75 percent of people in the U.S. with rheumatoid arthritis are women. Moreover, 1 to 3 percent of women might develop rheumatoid arthritis in their lifetime. This is also true for some other autoimmune conditions such as lupus and thyroid disease but scientists still don’t know why it happens. 

3. Rheumatoid arthritis is often accompanied by very painful symptoms.  

Although rheumatoid arthritis commonly causes joint pain, it can also be felt all over the body. Symptoms of RA include joint pain, swelling, tenderness, and stiffness. People with the condition can also have severe fatigue, loss of appetite, and a low-grade fever. 

People with RA feel ill. They experience constant tiredness since they don’t sleep well due to the pain. Unfortunately, for some people with rheumatoid arthritis, it’s difficult to find pain management options.

4. Scientists still don’t know the root causes of rheumatoid arthritis.

Yes, unfortunately, this is true. Scientists do know that it's an autoimmune disorder and that there is evidence that it can be hereditary. There are certain things that link to rheumatoid arthritis such as smoking cigarettes, improper dental hygiene, and genetics.

The genes don’t actually trigger rheumatoid arthritis, but they can make a person more prone to environmental factors such as viral or bacterial infections that might provoke the disease. This means that having a genetic predisposition won’t necessarily lead to the development of this condition.

5. Rheumatoid arthritis is incurable but it’s treatable.

Rheumatoid arthritis is serious and tends to get worse with time, therefore early diagnosis is crucial albeit it’s difficult. It is actually common for people with rheumatoid arthritis to originally be misdiagnosed with osteoarthritis.

Once you get a diagnosis, verified through a blood test, and sometimes an X-ray, you require treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that stop the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. People usually stay on these drugs for life, albeit they don’t have a positive effect on every RA patient. In order to manage rheumatoid arthritis, it’s important to get quality sleep, eat a healthy diet, and try to reduce stress. Getting rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t mean you can’t have a good and active life. This is possible with proper care.

6. People suffer from breakouts with rheumatoid arthritis.

Depending on the severity of rheumatoid arthritis people can feel well one day and terrible the next. These breakouts can sometimes be unpredictable and excruciating. Sometimes, breakouts can be provoked by certain factors such as overexertion, however, others occur for unknown reasons.

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Tags: health, management, pain

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