What is Rheumatoid Arthritis: Understanding this Progressive Autoimmune Disease

rheumaticarthritis

What is rheumatoid arthritis is the question most likely to be on your mind if you recently received a diagnosis for this condition. The answer is not as simple as a definition, but rather, has many parts, including the methods for treating this disease and the ways in which it may affect your life. By wanting to know the details of rheumatoid arthritis, you are taking the first step in being proactive in your care.

Definition

To understand the treatment options and impact rheumatoid arthritis can have on your life, you first need to know some specifics about this disease, like the fact it attacks your own healthy joint tissue.

This attack, which makes rheumatoid arthritis an autoimmune disease, then results in pain, swelling, redness, stiffness and warmth at and around the infected joint. It also subjects the joint to deterioration, thereby causing it to lose shape and interfere with normal movements.

As a progressive autoimmune disease, with periods of remission and flare-ups, it is possible that other systems in your body, such as the heart, eyes, lungs and blood, also undergo tissue damage.

Risk Factors

To further answer the question, what is rheumatoid arthritis, you should be aware of the causes and risk factors of this disease. If you do not have this condition but someone in your family does, it is good you are doing some research because rheumatoid arthritis is genetic.

The gene for this disorder may remain dormant for your entire life but it can also become active through environmental triggers, such as smoking or infection from conditions such as tuberculosis, E. coli, Epstein-Barr, parvo and retroviruses.

Studies that ask what is rheumatoid arthritis suggest risk factors also include being female, having a high birth weight or a higher than average weight at one year of age, not receiving breast milk and coming from a home with good hygiene.

Scientific evidence shows that rheumatoid arthritis may occur from a lack of exposure to germs as a child, which weakens the immune system and may even affect your body’s ability to remember foreign entities introduced in vaccinations.

Children who shared a bedroom, except for the first-born, also seem to be less susceptible to developing this condition. Although the exact cause for this disease remains unknown, enough evidence exists to determine that rheumatoid factor, in at least 50 percent of cases, begins because of the in utero or childhood environments.

Symptoms

If you are still wondering what is rheumatoid arthritis, you should be, as you still need to know more about this disease, like the fact it can become active ten years prior to the onset of any symptoms or when to call your doctor. In the event you have any of the aforementioned risk factors or begin to experience any of the following symptoms, you should see your primary care provider.

Malaise, fatigue and fever may accompany flare-ups or occur prior to the onset of the disease, which typically affects the joints in the hand, fingers and wrist, though other joints are also prone to infection. If you wake up with or experience stiffness and pain after resting that lasts for more than an hour, especially in the same joint on each side of your body, you may have rheumatoid arthritis.

In some instances, you may experience rheumatoid nodules, or small lumps of tissue that develop under the skin, do not cause pain and appear in a range of sizes. If you do not receive treatment for this condition, you become increasingly vulnerable to tears and inflammation in the tendons, bone erosion and destruction of ligaments and cartilage.

Now that you have some answers as to what is rheumatoid arthritis, you can spot the warning signs early, monitor for symptoms if you are at risk and proactively prevent serious damage by obtaining early treatment. The more you know about this, or any disease to which you may be prone, the better your chances for successful treatment, which means a happier, healthier life with less pain.

Joints Most Often Impacted by Rheumatoid Arthritis

Back Arthritis - The body’s own immune system begins to attack the joints of the spine, leading to inflammation and instability in the joints.

Hand Arthritis - most common in the knuckles, the joint cartilage and bone erode causing the joints to feel hot and look red.

Ankle Arthritis - an autoimmune, inflammatory disease where the body’s own immune system attacks joint cartilage of the foot and ankle.

Foot Arthritis - a painful experience that sometimes becomes worse by the accompanying inflammation, swelling, causing difficulty with movement.

Knee Arthritis -the joint sac behind the knee accumulates fluid causing inflammation, heat and pain.

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