A chronic progressive disease, rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by the painful inflammation of the joints. It may result in immobility and deformity, particularly in the ankles, fingers, feet, and wrists. It is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system, which normally protects your body from viruses and bacteria, is instead attacking your joints. The resulting inflammation causes the synovium — the tissue lining the inside of your joints — to thicken, so that the joints swell and feel painful. Healthy synovium creates the fluid that lubricates your joints for smooth and painless movement.
Why you need care?
You need comprehensive rheumatoid arthritis care, says RedRiver Health and Wellness Center. Not only because of the pain, but because prolonged swelling in your joints may damage the cartilage, which is the elastic tissue covering the ends of the bones forming your joints. The inflammation can also damage your bones. This happens when the cartilage begins to wear due to the inflammation, and the less cartilage, the smaller the space between your joint bones. The result is less mobility, lack of stability, and pain. Your affected joints may also become deformed. This is irreversible, so aggressive and early treatment is important.
Who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis?
If you’re suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, you are not alone. Approximately 1.5 million Americans suffer from this autoimmune disease. More women suffer from it than men, approximately three times more. Women aged 30 to 60 have a higher likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis. For men, it usually happens later in life. Although having it in your family history increases your probability of having rheumatoid arthritis too, the majority of sufferers today do not have it in their family histories.
Do you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis?
Here are some clues:
- Pain, tenderness, swelling, or stiffness in the joints lasting at least six weeks. In some cases, there is no immediate swelling but there is pain and tenderness.
- There is stiffness for at least 30 minutes in the morning.
- The pain and swelling happens to joints on both sides of the body.
- It’s not limited to only one joint.
- Small joints are affected too, such as the wrists and joints in the hands and feet.
The effects of rheumatoid arthritis are not limited to joint deformation and pain. They may also show in other organs (eye redness, sensitivity to light, and shortness of breath). This disease abruptly reduces the quality of life. See your doctor immediately if you notice these symptoms.