Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune, chronic inflammatory disease that can affect joints and cause damage all over the body. It affects the lining of the joints, giving rise to a painful swelling that can finally result in joint deformity and bone erosion. When rheumatoid arthritis damages the joints, it usually causes damage on both sides of the body. RA’s inflammatory effect can damage other parts of the body too.
In some people, rheumatoid arthritis can damage many body systems, such as the heart, blood vessels, lungs, eyes, and skin. Let’s say a joint is affected in one of the legs or arms; the same joint in the other leg or arm may also be affected. However, this distinct effect exhibited by RA has made it the only way doctors differentiate this condition from other forms of arthritis, like osteoarthritis (OA).
Doctors have typically divided rheumatoid arthritis into two major categories. They are;
Those with seropositive will have high antibodies in their blood. These are known as anti-cyclic citrullinated peptides (anti-CCP), and can occur for up to 10 years before symptoms commence. Arthritis Foundation has revealed that about 60-80% of people having rheumatoid arthritis will fall into the category of seropositivity. On the other hand, people living with seronegative rheumatoid arthritis lack the antibodies seropositive patients have in their blood. This then makes diagnosing more difficult.
This is a chronic condition that is marked by symptoms of pain and inflammation in the joints. They tend to increase during periods of exacerbations or flares. Symptoms are;
- Arching or pain in more than one joint
- Loss of appetite
- Stiffness in more than one joint
- Swelling and tenderness in more than one joint
- Low-grade fever
- Deformities and loss of joint function
Symptoms can change from mild to severe. You mustn’t ignore the symptoms, even if they come occasionally. Know the early signs and speak to a doctor today.
People with a higher risk of having rheumatoid arthritis include those who;
- Are obese
- Are 60 years or older
- Smoke tobacco or whose parents smoked during their pregnancy
- Have never given birth before
- Have specific genetic traits