Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of autoimmune arthritis. It affects more than just joints. You can see RA in the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. The immune system attacks healthy tissues, resulting in stiffness and swelling in the body.
About 1.5 to 2 million people suffer from RA in the United States.
The arthritis diagnosis is usually a clinical one. The doctor would look for symmetry in joint inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects both sides equally. As it progresses it can be noticed in the hands, wrists, and any joints from the shoulders down the body. Blood markers are also sought. Ultrasounds and MRIs can help with diagnosis as well.
People are born with a genetic predisposition for RA. An environmental trigger will turn on the RA genes. It can take years for RA symptoms to be noticed. More research needs to be done to determine what bacteria can trigger inflammation and autoimmune conditions.
Relationships & Rheumatoid Arthritis
It is important to bring your spouse or significant other when you receive your diagnosis. It helps to know how the disease may affect daily life. There may be misunderstandings surrounding expected activity levels, not knowing what the RA patient may be physically experiencing.
The disease will take a toll on the RA patient’s ability to live a normal life. Depression, lack of sleep, pain, anxiety and fatigue can limit what the RA patient can do.
Rheumatoid arthritic patients have to acclimate to a new normal, finding physical activities that can be done to strengthen, support and help the body maintain and improve the structure affected by the condition.
Listen as Dr. Ara Dikranian joins Dr. Susanne Bennett to discuss rheumatoid arthritis.