Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks the joint tissues which lead to swelling, inflammation, and pain in the joints.The condition develops most commonly in women aged between 40 and 60 and can affect the entire body. While damage to the joints including cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and the bone can occur, the disease can also affect organs including the lungs and heart and the eyes.
While causes for RA are still not fully understood, it is believed that the autoimmune disease could possibly be genetic. 1% of the population suffer from RA and of this, the huge majority is women. While there is an instance of RA in younger people, this is called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis or Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. This can be found in children between the ages of 1 and 4 but does differ somewhat from adult RA.
If the disease goes undiagnosed or untreated it can lead to devastating long-term issues. The worst of these can be a loss of mobility or confinement to a wheelchair. Thankfully, the pain someone with RA can experience can be managed as can most other symptoms.
If someone is experiencing symptoms of RA they need to visit their doctor to determine how mild or severe their condition is. Diagnosis is carried out by assessing symptoms, a physical exam, x-rays, and blood tests. Once a diagnosis is reached (usually by a rheumatologist) treatment and long-term management of symptoms can be discussed.
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