What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a specific kind of arthritis, i.e. a joint pain disease. It is an autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disorder is one in which certain cells of the body attack other healthy cells. The exact cause of why such autoimmune disorders occur is not known.
It goes much beyond the ordinary arthritis as it affects more regions than just the skeletal joints. This might even aggravate to affect vital organs such as the lungs and heart and can also show symptoms in the blood vessels, skin, and eyes.
Rheumatoid arthritis can be cured if the treatment is started early and is continued in a proper manner. If neglected, it can also cause physical deformities.
This systemic illness can begin at any age. If it starts in people under 16 years of age, then it is called juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
What Are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The following are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis:-
- It causes tenderness and warmth in the joint areas. The joints appear swollen.
- These joint pains first begin to appear in the smaller joints of the body such as the joints of the fingers and toes. They can later on move on to the larger joints such as the knees, elbows, and ankles.
- The joints then become stiff. This stiffness is experienced more after prolonged periods of inactivity and sleep. The discomfort is experienced most prominently in the mornings.
- There might be unexplained loss of weight.
- The person may remain fatigued most of the time.
- Fevers are commonly experienced.
Apart from the joints, the pains may also be felt in other regions of the body. These include areas such as the skin, eyes, salivary glands, nerve tissues and blood vessels. The pains may also begin in vital organs such as heart, kidneys, and lungs.
It must be noted that no two people show the same kinds of symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The intensity and frequency of the pains may change. Some people may experience pains in certain regions of the body that others may not.
The joint pains begin mildly but they progressively increase in severity. These pains can even cause the shape of joints to change, which may lead to deformities.
Why Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Occur?
Like all autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the cells of the body suddenly begin destroying the other healthy cells of the body. In this case, the immune system begins to systematically destroy the cells of the lining that surrounds the joints. The destruction of this lining can be quite painful and the issue is compounded when the cushioning between the joints gets destroyed. This causes tremendous friction when the joints are moved.
Over time, the destruction of other tissues connected to the bones also takes place. After destroying the cartilage, further tissues such as the ligaments and the tendons are also worn out. Ligaments are fibrous tissues that hold the two bones of a joint together. Tendons are the points of attachments of bones with muscles. With the depletion of these tissues, the shape of the joints can drastically change leading to deformities.
Which Kind of People Can Get Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The following are some of the observations made about the people who are more susceptible to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis:-
- The chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis is more in women than in men.
- As the age increases, the chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis also increase. The most vulnerable age is between 40 and 60 years. Having said that, it must be noted that rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age.
- Smokers are more vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis. This is aggravated if there is already a family history of the disease. So if one of your parents has this condition and you are a smoker as well, then you have a high chance of developing this condition yourself. Smoking also increases the intensity of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis might be an occupational hazard as well. It is noted that people working in environments that have excess of silica or asbestos are more prone to developing this disease.
- Body mass is also a factor. Overweight people and obese people are at a greater risk of developing the symptoms of this disease.
Some Essential Points to Remember for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis
- With rheumatoid arthritis, it is best to start treatment as early as possible. The joint pains begin as mild aches at first. If ignored, they can complicate into physical deformities. Starting early gives much better control over the condition.
- Learn more about the condition as much as you can. Do your research. Join groups where you can connect with other people who have the same condition. Since there is no standard rule for the symptoms here, it is best to find out as much support as you can and share your experiences and learn from others.
- You might have flare-ups occasionally. This is when the pains go to a higher unbearable level. When this happens, you will not be able to find treatment at short notice. Hence, it is best to speak with your doctor in advance about what you can do to prevent such flare-ups and how to cope with them when they arise.
- Learn about what lifestyle changes you can incorporate to mitigate the severity of the symptoms.
- There are no specific dietary constraints for people who have rheumatoid arthritis. However, some care can be taken. For example, if your body is sensitive to gluten, then you must completely stay off gluten as it can aggravate or accelerate the symptoms. You might also find that foods containing omega-3 fatty acids help your constitution and keep you in better shape. You can find a good concentration of these in fish oils such as that of salmon.
Rheumatoid arthritis is mostly a chronic condition but with proper treatment you can mitigate the symptoms and prevent the flare-ups. This could be your way to leading a healthier life despite the condition.