Rheumatoid Arthritis: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Expert Views, Diagnosis and Treatment


What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as RA, is a combination of musculoskeletal disorders. These disorders are caused by more than hundred different medical conditions. This condition hampers the physical movement of an individual by destroying the cartilage, connective tissues, muscles, bones, and joints. Let us take a look at the common causes, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, as well as prevention of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

At What Age Rheumatoid Arthritis Occurs?

Rheumatoid arthritis is more commonly seen in women as compared to men. Women make up to nearly 70 percent of the total number of people affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Nearly 1.3 million adults in the US are reportedly suffering from this condition. Women between the ages of 30 and 60 are more prone to this disease. In case of men, the condition develops later in life.

What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Researchers have still not been able to identify the real cause of rheumatoid arthritis. Many scientists suggest that it could be a combination of environmental as well as genetic factors. In most cases the disease is hereditary. Genetic markers have been identified as a possible cause of rheumatoid arthritis for up to ten times in individuals. This genetic structure is believed to be linked with the progression of this disease. But it is not always the same case.

Individuals with these genes are not always affected by rheumatoid arthritis. All people with rheumatoid arthritis do not possess these genes. It is also suspected that viruses or bacteria can increase the chances of rheumatoid arthritis in people with a genetic tendency to get this condition. Emotional and physical trauma has also been cited as possible causes of this disease. Smoking is another major cause of developing and propelling the severity of the disease. It can also greatly hamper the positive effects of the treatment.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Early Signs and Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of all ages and early symptoms of this disease are prolonged stiffness and pain in the joints. The stiffness and pain is especially severe in the mornings. Even the simplest of activities after waking up like holding the toothbrush in your hands can be very painful. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect small joints in the feet which can make walking very painful as well. The disease can cause loss of appetite and energy, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, as well as low fever.

Every joint in the body can be affected in severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis. It can also affect the cricoarytenoid joint which is the joint that tightens the vocal chords, which are responsible in changing the tone of our voice. Once the disease affects this joint, it can result in your voice sounding hoarse. Even children get affected by rheumatoid arthritis. The symptoms in children are:

  • Poor appetite
  • Crying
  • Irritability
  • Limping

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed?

Observing the medical history of the patient is the first step in diagnosing the presence of rheumatoid arthritis. This is combined with a physical examination that the doctor will conduct. In the physical exam, the doctor will look for common signs of rheumatoid arthritis like warmth, swelling, and decreased motion in the joints in various parts of the body. Blood tests can also be recommended by your physician in order to understand the levels of inflammation, identification of antibodies, and other signs that can help in assessing and diagnosing the condition of the patient.

X-rays are also a likely part of the diagnosis for rheumatoid arthritis. This will enable the physician in determining whether there is any erosion (bone loss at the joint edges) and if it is coupled with damage of joint cartilage. The physician will also enquire if you have been experiencing stiffness or fatigue.

What are the Prognosis and Preventions?

Early detection and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can be very beneficial for the patients. In the early stages, patients are more eager and positive towards the treatment. It is possible to control the ill-effects of this disease if the doctor and the patient co-operate and work together. Those patients who seek medical help in severe stages of rheumatoid arthritis like disability or deformity are less prone to have a favorable outlook towards the treatment.

All those prone to this disease should adopt a healthy lifestyle to prevent this disease. Although there is no particular way to prevent rheumatoid arthritis, certain conditions can be avoided. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of this disease in an individual. Other problems like chronic periodontal disease and silica mineral exposure intensifies the risk of the disease.

Expert’s Opinion

Experts suggest that with proper treatment and care rheumatoid arthritis can be effectively treated in practically every patient. There is continued research being conducted by scientists around the world to understand the complexities related to this disease. Proper diagnosis of the disease in patients can help administer the right medication and preventive care. The overall quality of life can be improved with proper care.

What is the Difference Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus?

Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus have some similar characteristics. One is that they both cause inflammation and joint pain and are autoimmune diseases. Both affect different parts of the body. Also, they are systematic diseases and have common symptoms like fatigue. At the same time, there are also many differences between the two diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis causes severe pain coupled with swelling. Over a period of time, continual swelling can cause the joints that are affected to become disfigured and damaged.

In lupus, on the other hand, there is only periodical swelling and in some cases there is no joint swelling at all. There is also lesser joint damage and patients do not require joint replacement surgery as compared to patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the Effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis can have various ill-effects on the body as well as the mind of the patient.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to emotional distress in an individual going through chronic symptoms.
  • It can affect the blood vessels, heart, lungs, eyes, and other organs as well.
  • Many individuals suffering from this disease develop what is called “rheumatoid nodules” that are lumps of tissue that form under the skin generally on forearms, elbows, fingers, and heels. It can even occur on the heart and lungs in some cases.
  • It can also affect the lung’s membrane lining.
  • People suffering from the disease are more susceptible to infections.
  • Anemia is also a common condition generated by rheumatoid arthritis.

How to Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis?

There is no proper cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, the disease can be managed in the following ways.

  • Avoiding foods and activities that can aggravate the condition is essential.
  • Medication must be taken as prescribed.
  • If the condition is not being controlled or reduced with medication and pain increases, surgery can be the next option for the patient.
  • Timely exercise and adequate rest is very important for improving the movement of the joint.

Expert Author : Kelly Everson (Consumer Health Digest)

Kelly Everson is an independent editor, an award-winning writer, and an editorial consultant. She is currently a contributing editor at ConsumerHealthDigest.com where she has worked as a senior editor.

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