Strikes between ages 30-60, but younger and older people can get it. 

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What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system condition, that causes inflammation of the lining of the joints. It may also affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, and nerves. Although RA symptoms can come and go, the disease can worsen over time and may never go away. Early, aggressive treatment is key to slowing and stopping it.

The Symptoms?

Joint inflammation comes with pain, warmth, and swelling. The inflammation is typically symmetrical, occurring on both sides of the body at the same time (such as the knees or hands). Other symptoms include joint stiffness, particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity; ongoing fatigue, and low-grade fever. Symptoms typically develop gradually over years, but they can come on rapidly also.

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Will You Get It?

It usually strikes between ages 30-60, but younger and older people can get it. About 1.5% of the U.S. population has the condition, which is two to three times more common in women than in men. You’re more likely to get it if you smoke or if you have a relative who has this disease.

What Is The Causes?

Scientists don’t know exactly why people get it. Some people may have a genetic risk for it that gets triggered by a particular infection that experts haven’t yet identified.

It Affect the Joints, Why?

Inflammation of the lining of the joints can destroy cartilage and bone, deforming the affected joints. As the condition progresses, joints can become painful and not work well.

What Can It Do to the Rest of the Body?

It can affect organs and areas of the body other than the joints, including:

  • Rheumatoid nodules form lumps under the skin and in internal organs.  
  • Sjogren’s syndrome: inflammation and damage of the glands of the eyes and mouth; other parts of the body can also be affected.
  • Pleuritis: inflammation of the lining of the lungs.
  • Pericarditis: inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart.
  • Anemia: not enough healthy red blood cells.
  • Felty syndrome: not enough white blood cells. Also linked to ah enlarged spleen.
  • Vasculitis: blood vessel inflammation, which can hamper blood supply to tissues.
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Doctors Will Check On:

Because symptoms may come and go, diagnosing it in its early stages is challenging. If you have these symptoms, your doctor may order further tests:

  • Morning joint stiffness.
  • Swelling/fluid around several joints at the same time.
  • Swelling in the wrist, hand, or finger joints.
  • Same joints affected on both sides of your body.
  • Firm lumps under the skin.

Treatments

Right now there is no cure, treatment can lower joint inflammation and pain, prevent joint damage, and help keep your joints working. You should start right away. Your doctor will make a plan based on your particular case, including your age, affected joints, and how severe the disease is. It will include medication and exercise to strengthen muscles around the joints. Some people may need surgery.

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Medicines Can Help

Medications used for treatment include drugs that slow or stop the disease, steroids, and pain relievers. You may need to take more than one type of drug. As an example, you may take one for pain and another to protect your joints from further damage.

Surgery an Option?

If you have a lot of joint damage or pain, your doctor may suggest surgery. Joint replacement is the most common type for people with RA. Other types of surgery include arthroscopy which is inserting a tube-like instrument into the joint to see and repair damage and tendon reconstruction.

What Can You Do?

Regular exercise can help those stiff, painful joints. It also keeps bones and muscles strong. Choose exercises such as gentle stretching, resistance training, and low-impact aerobics. Use caution with any activity that puts pressure on the joints, like jogging or heavy weight lifting. When you have a flare, take a short break from exercise. If you are not active now, talk to your doctor before you get started.





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Clarence Choe