Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Introduction

Rheumatoid arthritis is a relatively common condition that can affect people of all ages, yet the condition is not particularly well-known. To find out more about a long-term, chronic condition that affects over 1.3 million Americans, read on…

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that primarily causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and discomfort in the joints.
  • For the majority of people diagnosed with the condition, the hands and wrists are most commonly affected, but any joint is vulnerable.
  • The condition is variable; some people with rheumatoid arthritis will feel well much of the time, only experiencing occasional “flares” of the condition. Others experience chronic pain that waxes and wanes, but is always present to a degree.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is usually referred to as a “progressive” condition, which means the severity of symptoms can worsen over time.

How is rheumatoid arthritis different from “standard” arthritis?

“Standard” arthritis – better known as osteoarthritis – is caused by wear and tear on the joints, with no autoimmune symptoms present. As a result, it tends to impact older people.

Rheumatoid arthritis, however, presents similar symptoms but with an underlying, systemic cause beyond wear and tear.

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

The most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are found in the joints themselves, such as:

  • Tender joints, particularly in the hands, feet or wrists
  • Affected joints may also feel warm to the touch
  • Joint stiffness that is particularly pronounced in the morning or after exercise

In addition, some people with rheumatoid arthritis experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Discomfort in other areas of the body, such as the eyes and skin

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

There is no known cause of the condition; however, there are some groups that seem to experience rheumatoid diagnosis at a higher rate than the general populace:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis tends to be more common in women than in men
  • There also appears to be a genetic component to the condition; people with a family history of rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to be diagnosed themselves
  • Smoking cigarettes has also been linked to rheumatoid arthritis

Can rheumatoid arthritis be cured?

Not at present, no. For the most part, treatment for rheumatoid arthritis focuses on symptom management. This is usually done via a combination of different approaches, such as medication, physiotherapy, and assistance from the likes of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center rheumatoid arthritis care programs during flares. When people with rheumatoid arthritis are not experiencing a flare – known as remission – they can often live as standard, though some will require pain management even during periods of remission.

What should you do if you suspect you have rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is usually diagnosed via a blood test, so if some of the symptoms above sound a little too familiar, it’s well worth requesting such a check from your doctor.

In conclusion

Rheumatoid arthritis is a little-known but frequently misunderstood condition. Hopefully, having read through the above, you’ll now be able to recognize the symptoms of this condition, and have an insight into how those who have been diagnosed are treated.

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About Author

Brittany Crane

Brittany is a blogger who loves to do stories on people who make a difference in the world. She graduated from Northwestern University in 2010 in Sociology and currently works part time as a Social Worker.

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