Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint pain and is a systemic disease, meaning it spreads throughout the body. It is also an auto-immune disease. This is when your body’s immune system which normally protects you against disease causing bacteria and viruses, mistakenly attacks your joints.
When your autoimmune system attacks the thin membrane that lines your joints, systemic inflammation and pain will start to occur. This systemic inflammation can also lead to a loss of appetite and fatigue and decline in overall health. Muscle wasting and anemia may also occur.
However, with early diagnosis and correct treatment, you can prevent rheumatoid arthritis from causing further damage to your joints, ligaments, cartilage and tendons. It commonly affects fingers, wrists and elbows.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a symmetrical condition and typically, the erosive changes develop on a symmetrical basis This means that if your joint on the left side of your body is affected, the other corresponding joint on the right side of your body will also be affected.
Inflammation may cause the synovial membrane between the joints to thicken and eventually, cartilage wears away and the bony fusion can lead to a joint becoming permanently fixated.
What Are The Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The severity of the condition may vary from one person to another. Many sufferers with this condition will say they experience intermittent bouts of pain or ‘flare-ups’ which can become worse over a period of time. These flares may last for one day or for several months.
The most common symptoms include reddish, swollen, warm joints. Often there is joint stiffness, which usually occurs in the morning, with the pain lessening in intensity during the day.
If you experience a recurring and unexplained tingling feeling or numbness in your hands and wrists or pain in your fore-foot, you may be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
Other not so common symptoms may include dryness of the mouth, eyes, throat, skin and nose. This is due to the autoimmune disorder that causes certain glands to stop releasing moisture. This dryness in several parts of the body can be experienced even when rheumatoid arthritis is still in its early stages.
What Are The Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Today, the exact causes have not yet been fully understood. If some members of your family have the condition, the likelihood of you developing the condition is a higher risk probability.
Several lifestyle factors may also come into play in increasing your risks of developing rheumatoid arthritis. For example, smoking, hormonal changes and stress have been causally linked to the condition.
What Are The Long-Term Side Effects?
One of the most common long term side effects is limited movement and joint deformity. Lumps of tissue called ‘rheumatoid nodules’ may also develop under the skin where the bones are located.
The internal systems and organs of the body can also be affected due to the condition causing systemic or body-wide inflammation.
Unfortunately, since a cure for this condition has not yet been discovered, those who have been diagnosed with this disease may suffer from it chronically for life.
Preventive measures include Vitamin C, as synovia or joint fluids seem to be the object of attack. The vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps to build collagen and fight the inflammation.