Rheumatoid arthritis is an incurable but treatable autoimmune disease that attacks the body's joint tissues and causes inflammation to the joints. Over 1 million Americans are affected by this disease, which can't always be diagnosed in its early stages. Early stages of this disease can affect your general well-being and cause joint pain, resulting in varied symptoms that include tiredness, fever and even anemia.
RA usually affects joints on both sides of the body. The hands and wrists are often affected, in severe cases becoming misshapen. Testing positive for the specific antibody called the rheumatoid factor is not always an indication that you'll develop the disease.
Some people may test positive but never have symptoms of the disease, and others may be suffering symptoms of RA yet test negative. Rheumatoid arthritis may flare up and then symptoms may disappear, or they may appear and never go away.
Malfunctioning white blood cells are the cause of the RA-related inflammation. They usually protect against infection, and why they attack the joints is unclear. The attack of white blood cells causes the protective sac surrounding the joint, the synovium, to become inflamed, puffy and warm to the touch. The inflammation causes serious damage to the nearby cartilage and bone.
The first three years of RA are the most critical, as that is when most of the damage is done. Early diagnosis is difficult because its symptoms, other than joint pain, don't necessarily point to an arthritic condition. Symptoms of joint pain that start in middle age may be an indication of the disease and should be brought to the attention of your doctor; however, this disease may also be diagnosed in children. Women are affected more than men by RA. The underlying factors may be gene-related, but RA may also be caused by some sort of virus, bacteria or hormonal imbalance.