Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition that causes painful inflammation in the body, most commonly in the lining of joints. This ongoing inflammation can result in the breakdown and/or deformity of joints and bones. In more severe cases, RA can damage other areas such as internal organs, skin, eyes, and blood vessels.
About 1.3 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, 70% of which are women.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues. Unfortunately, experts are unsure what triggers RA. There are, however, a number of factors that are believed to increase your risk of developing RA. They include:
- Gender – Women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
- Age – Though it can develop at almost any age, rheumatoid arthritis most commonly develops between ages 40-60.
- Weight – Studies suggest that people who are overweight are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
- Genetics – If you have a family member with rheumatoid arthritis, you may be at increased risk of developing it yourself.
- Smoking – Smoking cigarettes has shown to not only increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, but also to increase the severity of the condition.
What are symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Pain, tenderness, swelling, or stiffness in one or more joints
- Joint stiffness in the morning that lasts longer than 30 minutes
- Fatigue, fever, appetite loss
These symptoms can often impact just a single joint for a variety of reasons. But a telltale sign of possible rheumatoid arthritis is when these symptoms are felt in multiple joints at the same time. The symptoms usually begin with the smaller joints and then progress to larger joints over time.
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