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The Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis

Aug 18, 2007
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), is one of the most debilitating of all 100 or so forms of the disease, causing joints to ache and throb and eventually become deformed. Rheumatoid Arthritis can make simple things like opening a jar or taking a walk excruciating for sufferers.

Unlike osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear on the joints, RA is an inflammatory condition. Its exact cause is unknown, but researchers believe that it is the caused when the body's immune system attacks the tissue that lines the joints.

Who gets Rheumatoid Arthritis? Women between the ages of 20 and 50 years of age, fall victim to this debilitating disease two to three times more than men. Statistics show that no one is immune from it, however. Even children and the elderly have been diagnosed.
To date, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but treatments are being used to help sufferers protect joint damage in order to live more productive lives.

The Symptoms:
The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may come and go over time, according to Mayo Clinic experts, and may include:

-Pain and swelling of the joints, especially in the hands and feet.
-Generalized aching or feelings of stiffness of the joints and muscles.
-Loss of motion.
-Loss of strength in muscles attached to the affected joints.
-Fatigue, which can be severe during a flare-up.
-Low-grade fever.
-Deformity of the joints.
-General sense of not feeling well.

Rheumatoid arthritis usually causes pain in several joints at the same time. In its early stages, the joints of the wrists, hands, feet and knees are most affected, followed by pain in the shoulders, elbows, hips, jaw and neck as the disease progresses.

Small lumps, called rheumatoid nodules, are also common under the skin of the elbows, hands, feet and Achilles tendons during outbreaks. They can be as small as a pea, or as large as a walnut, and generally aren't painful.

Considered a chronic disease, rheumatoid arthritis features severe flare-ups featuring severe swelling, pain and weakness, followed by days, weeks or months of normalcy.

What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Although a specific cause is not known, some researchers suspect that rheumatoid arthritis is triggered by a virus or bacterium infection in some people. Hormones are also being researched as a development factor.

Risk Factors:
With no known cause, it's hard to know for sure who will get RA, but some risk factors may include:

-Age. The risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis seems to increase with age, until age 80, where it suddenly decreases.

-Sex. Females are more likely to contract RA then men.

-Viral Exposure. Being exposed to an infection, possibly a virus or bacterium that may trigger rheumatoid arthritis.

-Genes. Inheriting specific genes may make some people more susceptible.

When To See A Doctor:
Persistent discomfort and swelling in multiple joints on both sides of the body may be a sign that it's time to seek medical treatment. Your doctor can work with you to develop a pain management and treatment plan for your rheumatoid arthritis.
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