Do You Know What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Health & Fitness

  • Author Mark Smith
  • Published June 16, 2020
  • Word count 697

Understanding rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and what causes it, is important for you to learn about if you want to avoid developing it. If you have been diagnosed with it, or suspect you have it, learning all you can is an important first step to reducing or eliminating the discomfort associated with RA. For some, RA is a long-term, progressive, and disabling autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, swelling, and pain in and around the joints and other body organs. It occurs when a person’s immune system mistakes the body’s healthy tissues for foreign invaders. As the immune system responds, inflammation occurs in the target tissue or organ.

The good news is, there are many treatments available from trusted rheumatoid doctors located in and around Lake Elsinore that can prescribe medications and other treatments that can improve symptoms dramatically.

First symptoms of RA

Early rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect smaller joints first — particularly the joints that attach your fingers to your hands and your toes to your feet. As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders. In most cases, symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of your body.

In the early stages, people with RA may not see redness or swelling in the joints, but they may experience tenderness and pain. These symptoms are clues to RA:

• Joint pain, tenderness, swelling or stiffness that lasts for six weeks or longer.

• Morning stiffness that lasts for 30 minutes or longer.

• More than one joint is affected.

• Small joints (wrists, certain joints in the hands and feet) are typically affected first.

• The same joints on both sides of the body are affected.

About 40 percent of the people who have rheumatoid arthritis also experience signs and symptoms that don't involve the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect many non-joint structures, including skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, salivary glands and more.

Who are most likely to be diagnosed

Doctors don't know the exact reason why some people end up with RA, although a genetic component appears to be likely. While your genes don't actually cause rheumatoid arthritis, they can make you more susceptible to environmental factors — such as infection with certain viruses and bacteria — that may trigger the disease. Some researchers believe it could also be linked to physical or emotional stress or some other external factor.

In a healthy person, the immune system fights viruses and bacteria. In a less healthy person, the immune system mistakes the body’s cells for foreign invaders and releases inflammatory chemicals that attack. In the case of RA, the chemicals attack the synovium - the tissue lining around a joint that produces a fluid to help the joint move smoothly. The inflamed synovium gets thicker and makes the joint area feel painful and tender, look red and swollen and moving the joint may be difficult.

Researchers aren’t sure why some people develop RA. They think that these individuals have certain genes that are activated by a trigger in the environment, like a virus or bacteria, or physical or emotional stress or some other external factor.

Risk factors

Even though doctors don’t know exactly what causes this disease, they do know some things that increase your risk of being diagnosed:

• Age: RA can affect you at any age, but it’s most common between 40 and 60.

• Dental health: New research shows a link between RA and periodontal (gum) disease.

• Family history: If someone in your family has it, you may be more likely to get it.

• Environment: A toxic chemical or infection in your environment can up your odds.

• Gender: RA is more common in women than men. It’s more likely in women who've never been pregnant and those who've recently given birth.

• Obesity: Extra weight, especially if you’re under 55.

• Smoking. If your genes already make you more likely to get RA, lighting up can raise your odds even higher. And if you do get the disease, smoking can make it worse.

If you think you might have symptoms of RA, be sure to contact a rheumatoid arthritis doctor as soon as possible. The longer you wait the more severe the symptoms become.

To learn more about rheumatoid arthritis visit

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