Rheumatoid Arthritis Defined

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)? Well, rheumatoid arthritis defined in understanadable terms, is a destructive, inflammatory disease that attacks the synovium, or the lining of joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is felt to be an auto-immune disease, meaning our own immune system is the culprit. Basically the cause of RA is unknown, but it is a global phenomenon, affecting all races, all over the world.

Women are three times more commonly affected than men. Inheritance seems to play a role. Smoking is felt to increase the risk of developing RA. The distribution of RA is estimated to affect 1% of the world population, making an estimated 3 million victims in the USA alone. The disease becomes more prevalent with age. It is estimated that more than 5% of women over the age of 55 suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

The course of rheumatoid arthritis is difficult to predict. It often appears first between ages 30 to 60. This disease is known for periods of remission (relief) and exacerbation (active disease), but generally RA is a progressive, destructive disease affecting functional ability and quality of life.

Typically rheumatoid arthritis has an insidious onset, which means it can develop gradually, to the point where it is well established before being really noticed. It often affects the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet first, and in a “symmetrical” (same joints on the right and left) pattern. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect every minor and major joint in the body.

This is a systemic disease that can be accompanied by fatigue, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, and depression. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect all organs, including the heart, lungs, liver, blood (anemia, or low red blood cell count), and skin with “rheumatoid nodules” appearing beneath the skin, particularly of the forearms.

To learn more about the common SIGNS/SYMPTOMS of rheumatoid arthritis, click here .

To learn about TREATMENT OPTIONS click here .

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