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Women's Health


Rheumatoid arthritis - what is it?


Few people realize that the term ‘arthritis’ is actually a blanket term for over 200 different diseases that involve joint inflammation and pain. One of the most 

Rheumatoid arthritis can occur in many parts of the body. Most joints of the body can be affected by rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other body parts 

including the heart, lungs, and blood. Rheumatoid arthritis is prevalent in roughly 2.1 million Americans, accounting for approximately one percent of all American adults. The disease is caused by an inflammation of the lining of a joint, which can cause the patient to feel pain and stiffness in the joint, as well as swelling, a feeling of warmth, and a red tint to the skin. In addition, inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the body’s tear ducts, salivary glands, and the linings of the human heart and lungs.


The disease may be life-long, with those afflicted experiencing waves of severity ranging from periods of practically no pain to intense suffering with little to no warning. The disease generally is found to be occurring in those between ages 20 and 50, and one may be afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis if they experience swelling, redness, tenderness, and a warmness of a joint. This feeling may be prevalent on both joints, for example, if one experiences a problem in their left elbow, their right elbow may also feel the same if rheumatoid arthritis is present. If afflicted, the pain and tenderness usually lasts for a long period of time, and the patient may feel the same symptoms in other parts of the body.


            The disease is actually caused by the body’s immune system. Sometimes the immune system may malfunction and mistake joint tissue as an invader. When that happens, the body will do its best to destroy the joint tissue, which leads to the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. An exact cause for this problem has not been discovered yet, but scientists in the field contend that genetics and heredity may play an important role. When diagnosing a case of rheumatoid arthritis, doctors often employ the use of a blood test that checks for the presence of an antibody known as a ‘rheumatoid factor’. If the antibody is present, there is a good chance that the person is afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis. Between seventy and ninety percent of all rheumatoid arthritis sufferers have this agent in their bloodstream, so it can provide a pretty accurate assessment of a person’s risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors may also perform x-rays to determine exactly how much of the joint tissue has been affected by rheumatoid arthritis. If you experience symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis that last for two weeks or longer, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the symptoms to see if you have the disease.



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