What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis - what is it?

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disease that is dependent on the body’s immune system. The immune system plays a crucial role in fighting infections as well as protecting the body from harmful constituents such as bacteria and other virus producing substances. While the immune system is programmed to attack foreign substances, it sometimes attacks itself. This is known as an autoimmune disease. In Rheumatoid Arthritis, for instance, the immune system attacks the joints, therefore leading to swelling, inflammation, and pain in the affected areas. It is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 30 and 50. According to the CDC, about 1.5 million Americans currently suffer from the disease but the incidence of Rheumatoid Arthritis is steadily increasing, especially among females.

Areas usually effected by Rheumatoid Arthritis involve joints located in elbows, wrists, hands, knees, ankles and shoulders in a symmetrical manner, meaning that the joints that are effected on the right side of the body are also affected on the left side of the body. Without proper medication or treatment, Rheumatoid Arthritis can become detrimental by causing the cartilage to break down, leading to joint distortion and immobility.

Causes for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The direct causes of autoimmune diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, are often difficult to isolate. To this day, the cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is still not known or completely understood. Environmental factors and genetic factors are considered as possible culprits. Variations in specific genes, such as Human Leukocyte Antigen Genes, or HLA genes have been linked to the development and the severity of the disease.

Who is Affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis

Gender is a crucial factor when it comes to the probability and the severity of Rheumatoid ArthritisWho is Affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis?. Studies indicate that females are more vulnerable to the disease. In fact, females are two to three times more likely to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis than males. New research has indicated that sex hormones in women might be responsible for the increased susceptibility.

Other factors, including age, family history and even obesity have been associated with the disease. Rheumatoid Arthritis is commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 30 and 50, with slight variance. A strong correlation between long-term smoking and Rheumatoid Arthritis has also been established. A previous history of viral infections is also suspected to increase the probability of developing the disease.

How is it Diagnosed

Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis are often difficult to diagnose and require a series of tests for proper diagnosis. Perhaps the most common type of test used in detecting the disease is a blood test. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, are very helpful for early detection of the disease. Other imaging tests including MRIs and ultrasounds may also be used to better understand the severity of the disease and pinpoint areas where the disease is progressing.

Treatment and Self Care

Although there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, drug therapy, rehabilitation, and surgery are commonly used to relieve symptoms and improve mobility. Drug therapy is helpful in managing the disease activity and easing the pain. Surgery, although rare, is sometimes used as a means of restoring mobility. Joint, hip, and knee replacements are the most commonly performed procedures.Self care for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Lifestyle changes including a healthy diet and daily exercise, such as a functional fitness program, can be extremely beneficial in alleviating and combating certain symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. The nutrition provided by specific minerals and fatty acids such as omega-3 have been shown to decrease inflammation of the joints. Speaking with a nutritionist or a dietitian might be beneficial in establishing a health and wellness plan and diet. Joining a health and wellness program or participating in a nutrition class might also be valuable in promoting good health, both physical and mental. Proper food nutrition can have a huge impact on the prognosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

In addition to following a balanced diet and eating healthy foods, exercising is also an important aspect when it comes to the Rheumatoid Arthritis treatments. Consistent and steady exercise is essential in improving mobility and increasing the overall range of motion in the joints. Additionally, a workout regime is crucial in maintaining overall good health. Meditation has also become a fairly popular method in promoting health and wellness. Meditation can be useful in easing pains caused by rheumatoid arthritis as well as promoting physical and mental health.