At TruWell Health, helping patients overcome the chronic pain that accompanies arthritis is our sole purpose. There’s a serious need here, not just in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area, but across the U.S. — over 50 million Americans have some form of arthritis. That adds up to 1 in 5 adults, along with 300,000 children. The joint pain and inflammation of arthritis is so widespread because there are over 100 different forms. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common forms.
In this blog, let’s take a little closer look at rheumatoid arthritis.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
When a person is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, their immune system mistakenly attacks their own tissues. This starts in the joints, where the immune system goes after the lining in the joints. This inflammation causes painful swelling that can eventually lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.
While it is usually associated with the joints, rheumatoid arthritis can damage a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis?
This form of arthritis occurs when your body’s immune system attacks the synovium — the lining of the membranes that surround your joints. This causes inflammation, which then thickens the synovium. Over time, this thickening can destroy the cartilage and bone within the joint. The tendons and ligaments that hold the joint together weaken and stretch. Over time, this leads to the joint being out of alignment and becoming deformed.
It’s a mystery why certain people have this happen to them. It’s thought there is a genetic component to rheumatoid arthritis. It’s not that your genes actually cause the immune system malfunction, but they make a person more susceptible to environmental factors, such as infection with certain viruses and bacteria, that may trigger the disease.
What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
In early stages, this form of arthritis usually affects the smaller joints, such as the fingers and toes. As the disease spreads, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders.
Typical signs and symptoms include:
- Tender, warm, swollen joints
- Joint stiffness that is worse in the mornings or after inactivity
- Fatigue, fever, loss of appetite
Those symptoms are well known, but about 40 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis also have symptoms that don’t involve their joints. Rheumatoid arthritis may affect these structures that have no relationship with the joints:
- Salivary glands
- Nerve tissue
- Bone marrow
- Blood vessels
If you’re dealing with the chronic pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, or any other form of arthritis, please call Dr. Brown and our team at TruWell Health. Arthritis solutions are our sole focus. Call us at (727) 440-5410 to schedule an appointment.