Autoimmune Disease

Causes, risk factors, and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Living with a chronic condition can be extremely difficult, but if the chronic condition is one that causes chronic pain, living with this condition is an excruciating affair. One such condition that is known to cause excruciating pain throughout the body is rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is known to affect about 1.3 million people in the country. It is an autoimmune disease that is known to cause severe joint pain and damage throughout the body. The joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis occurs on both sides of the body, which means that if the joint in one of the arms or legs is affected, the same joint in the other arm or leg will reflect similar pain.

It is easier to manage rheumatoid arthritis if it is diagnosed early, and this is possible only if one is acquainted with the condition. So, read on to learn more about rheumatoid arthritis as it will help you understand the condition and seek appropriate treatment.

Causes of rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It implies that rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the functioning of the immune system goes haywire, and it starts attacking the synovium, the lining of the membranes that surround the joints. The synovium is thickened by the resultant inflammation. Eventually, it destroys the cartilage and the bone within the joint. Moreover, the tendons and the ligaments that hold the joint together start weakening and stretching, and gradually the joint loses its shape and alignment.

There are no known causes of rheumatoid arthritis, but doctors believe that the genetic predisposition makes for a likely candidate. Though the genes do not actually cause rheumatoid arthritis, they definitely make one more susceptible to the environmental factors that can trigger the condition.

Risk factors
There are several risk factors that contribute to making an individual more vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis. They are as follows:

  • Sex– It is believed that women are more susceptible to developing rheumatoid arthritis than men.
  • Age– People between the ages of 40 and 60 years are more susceptible to developing rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Family history– It is likely that one is at a greater risk of developing the condition if a family member has rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Environmental exposures– Though there is no concrete proof about how environmental exposures can trigger rheumatoid arthritis, being exposed to asbestos or silica can increase an individual’s risk of developing this condition.
  • Smoking– Smoking has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, if one is susceptible to developing rheumatoid arthritis, smoking incessantly will only increase the risk of developing this condition.
  • Obesity– People who are overweight or obese are more prone to developing rheumatoid arthritis later in life.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
Understanding the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis plays a major role in seeking timely medical help. The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Fatigue, fever, and sudden weight loss
  • Tender, warm, and swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness that worsens in the mornings

Early rheumatoid arthritis targets smaller joints first, especially the joints that attach the fingers to the hands and toes to the feet. As the condition progresses, these symptoms tend to spread to the knees, wrists, ankles, elbows, shoulders, and hips. Also, these symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of the body.