Rheumatoid Arthritis- Battle Inside the Body

Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk Factors

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is another serious autoimmune disease where your white blood cells do not differentiate healthy tissue from invading organisms like bacteria. The end result is you have a multi-system disease that can attack virtually every organ in your body, and it particularly painful as it causes inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. Patients suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis in the US number about 2.1 million people

Rheumatoid arthritis initially attacks the synovium, a connective tissue membrane that lines the cavity between joints and secretes a lubricating fluid.

There is also juvenile rheumatoid arthritis which causes joint inflammation and stiffness for more than six weeks in a child under the age of 16. It affects approximately 50,000 children in the US. Many children do not complain of pain but any joint can be affected and the inflammation causes redness, swelling, warmth and soreness in the joints.

Risk factors:

  1. Sex. Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men.
  2. Age. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, but it most commonly begins between the ages of 40 and 60
  3. Family history. If a member of your family has rheumatoid arthritis, you may have an increased risk of the disease. Doctors don't believe you can directly inherit rheumatoid arthritis. Instead, it's believed that you can inherit a predisposition to rheumatoid arthritis.

  4. Smoking. Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Quitting can reduce your risk.


RA the Attack Mode

The disease attacks the body in a symmetric pattern.
The disease attacks the body in a symmetric pattern.

Compare Xrays to See Damage

Xray of healthy hand and one with RA
Xray of healthy hand and one with RA

RA Symptoms

The disease usually begins with the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Morning stiffness (lasting more than 1 hour)
  • Widespread muscle aches
  • Weakness

Gradually the joint pain will appear and when you haven’t used that joint for a wile it can become warm, tender to touch and stiff. Then the lining of the joint becomes inflamed giving off fluid and the joint becomes swollen. Usually both sides of the body are affected and the joints may include fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, toes and neck. That doesn’t leave out much. Joint destruction may occur 1-2 years after onset of the disease. It is a painful, very uncomfortable disease.

Additional symptoms that may occur:

  • Anemia due to failure of the bone marrow to produce enough new red blood cells
  • Eye burning, itching, and discharge
  • Hand and feet deformities
  • Limited range of motion
  • Low-grade fever
  • Lung inflammation (pleurisy)
  • Nodules under the skin (usually a sign of more severe disease)
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Paleness
  • Skin redness or inflammation
  • Swollen glands

Joint Swell

Source

RA Diagnosis

The diagnosis of this disease is a little easier then the one for Lupus, as there is a specific blood test for RA, called the anti- CCP antibody test... There are other tests that are usually done in conjunction with the blood test and they include:

  • Complete blood count
  • C-reactive protein
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • Joint ultrasound or MRI
  • Joint x-rays
  • Rheumatoid factor test (positive in about 75% of people with symptoms)
  • Synovial fluid analysis

No Known Cause & Treatment

There is no known cause of RA, and it can occur at any age. There is no known prevention, other than not smoking. Research shows that women who smoke are twice as likely to get RA as non-smokers. Women again are affected more often than men. This disease usually requires lifelong treatment including medication, physical therapy, exercise, education and possible surgery for joint replacements, which is similar to the to the other autoimmune diseases.

The common drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis are Methotrexate, DMARD, anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, Plaquenil, and Azulfidine. There are several new medications available for RA patients, much more so than other auto-immune diseases. Drugs that specifically treat the inflammation are Humira, Enbrel and Remicade. There are also some drugs that are called white blood cell modulators to control inflammation called Orencia and Rituxan. Many of these drugs have some serious side effects and patients are monitored closely. Unfortunately these drugs do no work with Lupus patients

Physical therapy is important, with individualized exercise programs to prevent the loss of joint function. Hot and cold treatments and splints may be used to support and align joints.

 

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Damage to Woman's Hands

Woman's hands Courtesy of Flickr
Woman's hands Courtesy of Flickr

RA Prognosis

There are possible serious complications such as rheumatoid vasculitis, which is an inflammation of the blood vessels and pericarditis which causes the outer lining of the heart to swell. Fortunately, these complications aren’t too common.

Prognosis: Regular blood and urine tests are used to determine how well the medications are working. RA differs from person to person. People who have the rheumatoid factor found in the blood test or those with subcutaneous nodules seem to develop a more sever form of the disease. I have a friend that has these nodules throughout her lungs, so she is on oxygen and her life is severely impaired. It is hard to see my friend suffer and know there is no cure. Other people with RA work full time but after many years 10% of those will become severely disabled.


Summary

Rheumatoid arthritis is a very painful and serious disease. It can affect all the organs in your body and become disabling through the years. There are some new medications that seem to be effective in stopping the progression of the disease.

There is a lot of research being done on RA and there are new medications on the horizon so patients are living longer overall and having a little better quality of life.

© 2010 Pamela Oglesby

More by this Author


Comments 32 comments

Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV

Pamela,

Is RA connected th rheumatic (sp?) fever? When I was in first grade a girl in my class had rheumatic fever. She missed a lot of school because they said it could damage her heart.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Tom, Rheumatic fever is a whole other disease. Children usually get it and are sick for weeks. The worst part is the disease often damages their heart. It is not so prevalent today as antibiotics are given more often when people have strept throat or a strept infection. Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of 80 different types of what is called an auto-immune disease. Thanks for your comment.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for a very good hub adn advice about this terrible illness. I have read in the paper that they have over here some or a lot of success with ROSEHIP tablets. Maybe somebody could look into it. It would be wonderful if it would prove to be a help. Also the advantage that there is no side-effects while chemicals bound to damage something else.


Partisan Patriot 6 years ago

Pamela

This is definitely a terrible disease to have to endure. I have Osteo Arthritis which has resulted in both hips being replaced. Life can be cruel sometimes but we all seem to find the strength to make it through the adversity!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Hello, I don't know about rosehip tablets but I am going to read about them. I think anything natural is better than a pharmaceutical product. Thanks for your input.

Patriot, Your comment is so true. I have that disease also and somehow you choose to not let it stop you from living life the best you can. Thanks for your comment.


DiamondRN profile image

DiamondRN 6 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

Obesity - "The risk of having moderate to high rheumatoid arthritis disease activity was 9 times higher in those patients who also suffered from metabolic syndrome compared to those rheumatoid arthritis patients who were not burdened by it."

www.healthcentral.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/c/53/29143/diabetes


Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts

Excellent Hub on a widespread and difficult condition. My mother suffered with Rheumatoid Arthritis, beginning when she was in her fifties. My children's father suffers with it because he has another immune system disorder that includes Rheumatoid Arthritis.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Very informative hub, Pamela,

I have a friend who says that she has RA, but does not take any medication for it!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Diamond, Thanks for sharing that. I didn't find that link in my research but will check it out.

Lisa, You have had a lot of experience living with this awful disease. There was a time they thought I had it because that's what my bone scan looked like, however, I lupus and other auto-immune diseases. It is not uncommon to have more than one. Thank you so much for your comment.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

BPOP, I read about cases that were very mild, but that can all change as we age. Hopefully your friend can continue to remain symptom free. Thanks for the comment.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Hello, Pamela. me once more. Thereis a specialist clinin in Surrey, UK and a lady who was treated by them with all sorts of medication, had to change constantly because of the side effect, she then was told of that rosehip capsules and apparently she could live without pain. She was so bad that she couldn't sleep at night.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Hello, Thank you as I have a lot of problem sleeping at night due to pain. I will buy some rosehips and try them.


nancy_30 profile image

nancy_30 6 years ago from Georgia

This was a very good article Pamela. My aunt's hands hurt a lot. I don't think shes seen a doctor about it. She always tells me its athritis and its from her working in a sewing factory all of her life. I didn't know that much about this disease and I learned a lot from reading this.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Nancy, Thank you for your comment. Maybe you aunt has Carpal Tunnel (my neighbor did machine embroidery work in a sewing shop for many years and got Carpal Tunnel) but she should see a doctor. Good wishes for her.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD

Pamela - Thank you for the education. Not sure I wanted to know that much. :>) I am surprised to now know that there is no known cause. I have it in my fingers & figured it was because I used to crack my knuckles all the time.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Ken, Yes, I went into a lot of detail which I guess is my style as I try to research carefully when writing a serious hub like this one. Some people who have the disease don't know half of the things I explained. I'm glad yours is limited to your fingers. Thanks you for your comment.


theirishobserver. profile image

theirishobserver. 6 years ago from Ireland

excellent hub, makes mine look very amaturish ha ha, great insight.....did not know this before....very informative


HealthyHanna profile image

HealthyHanna 6 years ago from Utah

This is an important article for nearly everybody, as arthritis is on the rise worldwide.

I would like to recommend it on my hub.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Thank you both for your comments. I agree arthritis is on the rise of all types and we need more understanding of heathy treatments.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

I am sorry to hear that and I hope this will help. That clinic and that lady swore by it. My best wishes.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Hello, Thanks again for your comments.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

nice information. It useful for us. I'll bookmark this hub and I rate this. good work Pamela.


Roberta99 profile image

Roberta99 6 years ago

I didn't know all those things about this disease. Very well researched article.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Thank you Roberta for your compliment.


Michael Jay profile image

Michael Jay 6 years ago

This hub is really helpful and very informative. Rheumatoid arthritis is a really serious disease.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Michael, Yes, it is a serious disease. Thank you for your comment.


catluv profile image

catluv 6 years ago

Hi, very informative and well written hub. Was wondering where you found the complete list of the 80 auto immune conditions and where I can locate it? Doctors seem to keep this type of info very private. Thanks for your hub and help! Brenna


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Catluv, I will get back to you in an email. I found a lot of information of the internet and will have to check my sources.


Brenda Massey profile image

Brenda Massey 6 years ago

Good hub on RA. Well written.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Brenda, Thank you very much for your comment.


Aiden Roberts profile image

Aiden Roberts 6 years ago from United Kingdom

Thank you for a very informative article. My wife has been a sufferer for many years but sadly the medical team have never got it under control.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Alden, I am sorry to hear about your wife. There are so many new medications coming out for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis that maybe there will be one that will help. Thanks for your comment and I wish you and your wife the best.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working