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Information for Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

In simplest terms, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis in which the bodyís immune system attacks the joints by mistake. It is a chronic, inflammatory disorder that affects both the joints and the immune system. Like so many forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is painful and can lead to joint destruction, limiting your daily activities and making it hard for you to walk and use your hands.

Rheumatoid Arthritis sometimes call RA of the hands, later stages.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis doesnít just affect the joints; it can also affect the skin, the blood vessels, the heart, the lungs, and the muscles.
  • With rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system is triggered and immune system cells (your bodyís line of defense against invading germs) flow into a joint and the tissue surrounding the joint. The immune system cells produce a substance which causes inflammation in the joint, which in turn causes a decrease in cartilage. Decreased cartilage causes the bones of the joint to grind together.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is the second most common form of arthritis, affecting women three times more often than men. Most people develop rheumatoid arthritis between the ages of 20 and 25.

Do I have rheumatoid arthritis?

There are several warning signs that indicate you have developed rheumatoid arthritis. You may be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis if you are experiencing four or more of these warning signs:

  • Morning stiffness for more than an hour most mornings for at least two weeks.
  • Morning stiffness is a term used to describe the stiffness felt in the joints of arthritis sufferers when they wake up in the morning.

    Joint stiffness can affect you daily life.
    Though morning stiffness doesnít generally last more than half an hour or so, a rheumatoid arthritis sufferer can sometimes have morning stiffness for over an hour.

  • Pain in three or more joints at the same time for at least two weeks.
  • Pain in a joint all night long.
  • Pain in the same joints on both sides of your body. This is called a symmetrical pattern. For example, experiencing pain in both knees, or in both wrists.
  • Development of rheumatoid nodules. These are hard, round or oval masses that appear under the skin. They are commonly found at pressure points like the elbow and back of the forearm.

Watch carefully for these signs and if they persist for more than two weeks, you quite possibly have rheumatoid arthritis. However, seeking medical diagnoses is crucial. Go see your doctor!

How is it diagnosed?

rheumatoid arthritis xray of the hand.

Your doctor will want to make sure your pain is caused by arthritis and not another problem. So, you will need to describe your symptoms as best you can. Your doctor may then want more concrete information, which can be gained through x-ray and blood tests. An x-ray will display cartilage degeneration/joint erosion and a blood test will indicate if you have a positive rheumatoid blood test (rheumatoid factor above 95%). If your doctor determines that you may have rheumatoid arthritis, usually you will be referred to a rheumatologist.

A rheumatologist is a doctor who has received special training in the diagnosis and treatment of problems with joints, muscles, and bones.

Empowering yourself with information is important. So, learn as much as you can about this disease. Speaking with people who are specialists in arthritis care can provide you with the necessary information.

If you start treatment early, you can keep the disease under control and avoid severe damage to the joints. Donít lose hope. There are many steps you can take to deal with the pain and cope with the disease.

How did I get it?

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when white blood cells - whose usual job is to attack unwanted invaders, such as bacteria and viruses - move from your bloodstream into the membranes that surround your joints (synovium). The blood cells appear to play a role in causing the synovium to become inflamed. The inflammation causes the release of proteins that over months or years cause the synovium to thicken.

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The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not fully understood. Genes play a role in rheumatoid arthritis, but experts do not know exactly what that role is. It's likely that rheumatoid arthritis occurs as a result of a complex combination of factors, including your genes, your lifestyle choices, such as smoking, and things in your environment, such as viruses.

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

Do you have more questions?

If you have any questions regarding our therapeutic products and your treatment options, please contact a MendMeShop Advisor for assistance. You can be assured all your questions will be answered in a thorough and courteous manner by our trained staff.

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