Rheumatoid Arthritis – abbreviated as RA – is the most common type of autoimmune disease which causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue that surrounds the joints and other organs in the body. Autoimmune diseases arise from abnormal immune response to substances and tissues of the body.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
RA is triggered by a faulty body’s defence system and mainly affects the wrist, knuckles of the hands and middle joints of fingers. Increased stiffness early in the morning is one of the prominent features of the disease and usually lasts for more than an hour. The joints get tender warm and swollen. Fatigue and occasional fevers are noticed.
The symptoms may vary depending on the people. It is mainly seen in middle age and occurs with increased frequency in older people. Another feature is its occurrence in a symmetrical pattern which means that if one hand is involved then the other hand is also affected. Periods of disease flares and remissions is yet another feature. It can range from mild to severe. In most cases it is chronic which means it lasts a long time and even a lifetime. Chronic inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis can cause joint destruction and deformity permanently.
The disease commonly starts between 40 and 50 years of age in women and for men some what later. Rheumatoid arthritis is most feared and is three to five times more common in women than men.
There are many risk factors majority of which include genetic background. Other possible risk factors are smoking, silica inhalation, periodontal disease and vitamin D deficiency. Though unclear, Vitamin D deficiency is noticed commonly in people with rheumatoid arthritis than in the general population.
RA can be diagnosed by medical imaging techniques by X-Rays, MRI and ultrasound. Reduction of risk factors is known to prevent RA though treatments can improve symptoms and can help slow the progress of the disease.