If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you are not alone as approximately 1.5 million Americans deal with the malady on a daily basis. But do you know what rheumatoid arthritis is and what complications can arise from it?
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis — or RA for short — is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects joints, especially in the hands and feet, but it can affect more than just the joints. For some people, RA leads to damage to other systems in the body, including the skin, eyes, heart and blood vessels. It is caused by one’s immune system mistakenly attacking the body’s own tissue. There is no cure for RA, but it can be treated to minimize the effects, however physical disabilities can still arise from severe cases of RA.
Typical symptoms that indicate one may have RA include tender and swollen joints, joint stiffness, fatigue, fever and weight loss. In terms of the joint stiffness, it is usually worse upon waking up in the morning or following periods of inactivity. RA often begins in smaller joints, then as it gets worse it spreads to other areas, including the wrists, ankles, hips and shoulders. About 40 percent of RA patients also have symptoms that don’t affect the joints, with those structures including the lungs, heart, kidneys and bone marrow.
The symptoms vary in severity between patients, but it is important to notice the signs early to start treatment quickly because over time — and especially without treatment being performed — RA can cause joints to become deformed and shift out of place. If you notice swelling in your joints, you should make an appointment to see your doctor to get a professional opinion about whether it is actually caused by RA.
Risk factors and complications
While RA can happen in anyone, there are factors that could increase the risk of a person developing RA. Among those are:
- Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop RA
- Age: RA usually occurs between the ages of 40 and 60
- Obesity: People who are overweight are at a somewhat higher risk of developing RA
RA increases one’s risk of developing osteoporosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, lung disease and lymphoma.
Ketamine infusion therapy has been shown to help provide rapid relief from this condition and a number of other types of chronic pain.