As an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis is both painful and difficult to diagnose, especially during the early stages. Part of the problem is that various other diseases, such as lupus and fibromyalgia, can be mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis and are difficult to diagnose themselves. The right diagnosis is critical for developing the best long-term treatment plan for any autoimmune disease. Like other diseases in this group, rheumatoid arthritis can be managed, but it doesn’t have a cure.
Approximately 1.3 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, and about 75% of them are women. However, anyone could develop the disease, but some people do have certain risk factors that put them at greater risk than others. Additionally, the disease can attack critical organs and not just the joints. It’s important to learn the signs and symptoms that could warn you of the disease, so treatment can begin early.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Like other forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis mainly attacks the joints in the hands, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles and feet. In some cases, the disease causes damage to the heart, lungs, blood vessels, eyes and skin. It is a type of autoimmune disease, which is a class of diseases caused by the body’s immune system attacking its own organs and cells. Because of the potential damage to organ systems throughout the body, rheumatoid arthritis is also classified as a systemic disease.
When joints are attacked, the disease causes inflammation that could lead to permanent damage. In many cases, the joints become twisted and deformed. Reliable treatment can help you manage the disease and slow the progression.