Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system attacks the body. It affects the joints, skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood vessels, kidneys, nerves, and salivary glands. When the joints are attacked, the synovium that lines and lubricates the joints is affected. The cartilage and bones are destroyed over time, and the tendons become weaker causing the joints to become deformed. The damage to the bones can increase the risk of osteoporosis, thereby causing people living with RA to be more prone to fractures. RA is not reversible. Signs and symptoms of RA may include tender, warm, swollen joints, joint stiffness, and occasional fatigue. Other symptoms may consist of chronic dry eyes and mouth (Sjogren’s syndrome), increased infections, carpal tunnel syndrome (inflammation can affect the wrists), hardening of the arteries and blood vessels, pericarditis (inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart), and lung disease.

Rheumatoid-Arthritis-diseaseEarly symptoms of RA will affect the smaller joints of the hands and feet. Rheumatoid nodules, which are spongy or firm bumps, will form on the joints, typically the fingers. As the disease progresses, wrists, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders may be affected. Signs and symptoms may vary, pain may come and go, and patients may experience flare-ups and remission. Severe RA can be debilitating.

No one truly knows what causes RA. It is thought that RA may be genetic; however, this may not be the case. RA can occur at any age and more often in women than men.  If you suspect that you have RA, please consult with your primary care physician or general practitioner as soon as possible for diagnostic testing, treatment, and management.  A rheumatologist can help manage ongoing treatment caused by inflammation. The treatment goal is to slow down the progression of the disease. Medications typically prescribed will include NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Referral to an orthopedic surgeon, dermatologist, ophthalmologist, pulmonologist, cardiologist, neurologist, and dentist may be necessary if RA affects the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood vessels, kidneys, nerves, and salivary glands.


Chatuphot. (2019). Hands of Rheumatoid Arthritis patient Isolated on White Background.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network. (2019). Living Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Retrieved from https://www.rheumatoidarthritis.org/