The Facts on Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints.

There are actually multiple types of arthritis. The most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, Osteoarthritis being the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a medical condition that usually comes with age and most often affects the outer extremities including fingers, knees, and hip joints. It is not uncommon for osteroarthritis to originate from an injury of some kind. For example, a sports injury can often be a trigger. Even years after joints have supposedly become healed, symptoms can begin. The causes are not quite understood

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Normally the body’s immune system protects the body against foreign invaders such as substances like viruses and bacteria. However, in the case of Rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation, which results in swelling and pain in the joints.

In some cases, rheumatoid arthritis can affect more than just the body’s joints. In some cases, the condition also damages other body systems, including the eyes, lungs, skin, heart, and blood vessels.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can vary from individual to individual. Symptoms can vary in severity and can enter long periods of remission.

The inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis attacks the joint synovium, which thickens and can eventually result in the destruction of the cartilage and bone within the joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis most often affects joints in the wrists, hands, feet, knees and ankles. Typically if one joint of one limb is affected, the same joint in the opposite limb is also affected. RA, if left untreated, can also negatively affect other body systems, such as the cardiovascular or respiratory systems. Therefore, it is a systemic disease, capable of affecting the entire body.

The exact cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is unknown. Many studies seem to suggest that a genetic component is involved, however, environmental factors are also likely at play. There is at least some evidence suggesting that RA symptoms can present through environmental factors such as infectious disease or even diet. As a result, those affected by RA are often encouraged to explore anti-inflammatory diets.

Some have suggested that RA can be triggered by various inflammation causing foods. Specifically, the following foods, are sometimes thought to cause inflammation: fried foods; AGE foods (advanced glycation end product foods which are heated, grilled, fried, or pasteurized); refined carbs and foods high in sugar; dairy products; alcohol and tobacco; processed foods containing preservatives and chemical compounds; corn oil and other highly processed or genetically modified oils; gluten. While no specific diet has been proven to cause or alleviate RA symptoms, patients are encouraged to discuss dietary options with medically trained physicians and professionals.

While there is no known cure at this time for rheumatoid arthritis, medications, physical therapy, and in some cases diet and exercise can help slow the disease's progression and alleviate symptoms. In some mild cases, symptoms can be managed with anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). In more severe cases, symptoms are sometimes managed with a class of medications called antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS).

Approximately 1-2 million Americans alone have reported experiencing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. The disease is more common among women, and tends to begin between the ages of 30 and 60. The disease often presents later in life for men than women.

If you are experiencing RA symptoms, you should consult your primary care physician immediately, as this disease can become worse and can cause lasting damage if left untreated.