What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease that behaves every bit as aggressively as a cancer. It is a chronic disease that can completely disable a person within two years of diagnosis if not diagnosed early and treated aggressively.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. What is known is that RA is an autoimmune disease which means the body’s immune system is mistakenly attacking the body’s own tissues. It is the body’s immune systems over reaction that leads to the inflammation and resulting joint damage.
There are some indications that a susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis may be inherited. Research is ongoing looking into the genetic and environmental factors that may influence the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
Who Gets Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis affects more that 2 million Americans – about 1 percent of all Americans. RA affects three times as many women as men. Peak onset is between ages 20 and 45.
- Prolonged stiffness in the joints in the morning.
- Swelling and inflammation in the joints.
- Damaged joints, as shown by x-rays.
- Blood tests showing an antibody known as rheumatoid factor
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
- Anemia (low blood count)
What is a rheumatologist and what do rheumatologists treat?
A rheumatologist is a specialist who has received extensive training in internal medicine as well as all types of arthritis and autoimmune diseases. Rheumatologists treat all forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout and pseudogout. They also treat musculoskeletal pain, chronic back pain and osteoporosis. They are also experts in treating various autoimmune diseases, including but not limited to lupus, polymyositis, connective tissue disorders and vasculitis.