Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Comprehensive Guide to Symptoms, Causes, and Complications

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that extends beyond joint pain and affects various body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vess

Rheumatoid Arthritis

As an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues.

Unlike osteoarthritis, which results from wear and tear, rheumatoid arthritis primarily affects the joint lining, leading to painful swelling, bone erosion, and joint deformity.

The inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis can also damage other parts of the body. While advancements in medication have significantly improved treatment options, severe rheumatoid arthritis can still result in physical disabilities.

Symptoms:
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is crucial. Common indicators include:

Tender, warm, and swollen joints.
Morning stiffness and stiffness after periods of inactivity.
Fatigue, fever, and loss of appetite.
Rheumatoid arthritis often begins by affecting smaller joints, such as the ones connecting fingers and toes. Over time, it progresses to larger joints like wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders. Typically, symptoms occur symmetrically on both sides of the body.

Approximately 40% of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis experience non-joint-related symptoms in various areas of the body, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, salivary glands, nerve tissue, bone marrow, and blood vessels.

The severity of rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms can vary and may occur in flares, with periods of increased disease activity alternating with relative remission when swelling and pain diminish. Over time, the disease can cause joint deformities and misalignment.

When to Seek Medical Attention:
If you experience persistent discomfort and swelling in your joints, it is advisable to schedule an appointment with your doctor promptly.

Causes:
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy joint tissues. It can also affect organs such as the heart, lungs, nerves, eyes, and skin.

The exact trigger for this autoimmune process remains unknown, although genetic factors likely play a role. While genes themselves do not cause rheumatoid arthritis, they can increase susceptibility to environmental factors, including specific viral and bacterial infections, that may initiate the disease.

Risk Factors:
Several factors can heighten the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, including:

Gender: Women are more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis than men.
Age: Although it can manifest at any age, rheumatoid arthritis most commonly starts in middle age.
Family history: Having a family member with rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk.
Smoking: Cigarette smoking, especially in individuals genetically predisposed, raises the likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis and exacerbates its severity.
Excess weight: Being overweight slightly increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Complications:
Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to various complications, including:

Osteoporosis: Both rheumatoid arthritis itself and certain medications used for treatment can weaken bones, increasing the risk of fractures.
Rheumatoid nodules: Firm tissue bumps often form around pressure points, such as the elbows, but can appear elsewhere, including the heart and lungs.
Dry eyes and mouth: Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis are at a higher risk of developing Sjogren’s syndrome, a condition characterized by reduced moisture in the eyes and mouth.
Infections: Rheumatoid arthritis and certain medications can compromise the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections. Vaccinations are recommended to prevent diseases like influenza, pneumonia, shingles, and COVID-19.
Abnormal body composition: People with rheumatoid arthritis often have a higher proportion of fat to lean mass, even if their body mass index (BMI) is within the normal range.
Carpal tunnel syndrome: Inflammation in the wrists can compress the nerve responsible for hand and finger movement.
Heart problems: Rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk of hardened arteries, blockages, and inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.
Lung disease: Inflammation and scarring of lung tissues can cause progressive shortness of breath in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
Lymphoma: Rheumatoid arthritis raises the risk of lymphoma, a group of blood cancers that develop in the lymph system.
By understanding the symptoms, causes, and potential complications of rheumatoid arthritis, individuals can seek early medical intervention and adopt appropriate preventive measures to manage the condition effectively.

UNDERSTANDING RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS: CAUSES, SYMPTOMS, AND TREATMENT OPTIONS