Welcome to Idaho Brain & Body’s information page on Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). RA is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. Unlike other kinds of arthritis that come from wear and tear, RA happens because your immune system, which usually fights off infections, mistakenly attacks your joints. This can lead to swelling, pain, and stiffness, especially in smaller joints like fingers and wrists, and sometimes in knees, ankles, and elbows. RA can also make you feel tired and can affect other parts of your body, not just your joints. Symptoms can vary in intensity and may come and go. While RA is a chronic condition, meaning it lasts a long time, our clinic offers various treatments to help manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life. We’re here to support you every step of the way in your journey with RA.

Common Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that primarily affects joints, but can also have systemic effects. Common symptoms of RA include:

Joint Pain and Swelling: This is often symmetric and usually affects smaller joints initially, such as those in the hands and feet. The pain is typically worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity.

Stiffness: Joints may feel stiff, especially in the morning or after sitting for long periods, often lasting for several hours.

Redness and Warmth: The affected joints may feel warm and appear red due to inflammation.

Joint Deformity: Over time, persistent inflammation can lead to joint damage and deformities.

Fatigue: A general feeling of tiredness and lack of energy is common in RA.

Fever and Loss of Appetite: Low-grade fever and a decrease in appetite can accompany the inflammation.

Rheumatoid Nodules: Some people with RA develop firm bumps of tissue under the skin near affected joints.

Decreased Range of Motion: Inflammation and joint damage may limit the movement of joints.

Systemic Symptoms: RA can affect organs and body systems beyond the joints, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood vessels, and nerves, leading to a variety of other symptoms.

It’s important to note that RA symptoms can vary in intensity and may come and go. Flare-ups where symptoms become worse are common and can be followed by periods of remission where symptoms are less noticeable. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in managing RA effectively and preventing joint damage.

Factors That Contribute to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and immunological factors. Genetically, certain alleles like HLA-DR4 are linked to an increased risk, suggesting a hereditary predisposition, though not all individuals with these genetic markers will develop RA. The condition is autoimmune in nature, where the immune system erroneously attacks joint tissues, potentially triggered by an interplay between genetic susceptibility and environmental factors. Environmental triggers can include smoking, exposure to silica dust, and perhaps certain infections. Hormonal influences are also evident, as evidenced by the higher prevalence of RA in women and changes in disease activity during pregnancy and postpartum periods. Age is another factor, with RA commonly manifesting in middle age, although it can occur at any age. Additionally, obesity has been identified as a risk factor, possibly due to the pro-inflammatory state associated with excess body weight. These diverse contributing factors make RA a complex condition to understand and manage, emphasizing the importance of personalized approaches in treatment and prevention strategies.

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