Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that many people in Arizona must live with every day. The debilitating part of rheumatoid arthritis is that it affects so many active adults here in Anthem and Surprise, affecting everything from their golf game to their home lives. Understanding what rheumatoid arthritis is and what the risk factors for this chronic condition are an important step to understanding the diagnosis and pain management treatment.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), by definition, is a "chronic inflammatory disorder that most typically affects the small joints in your hands and feet." According to the Mayo Clinic, rheumatoid arthritis is unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis because if affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.
We have seen many cases in Arizona where arthritis has affected an individual so strongly, that certain appendages will begin to take on a deformed appearance, most notably the fingers and toes.
Like many other forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your body literally attacks itself. It's a condition that causes your own immune system to mistakenly attack your body's tissues. Ultimately, the attacking of tissues can lead to high fevers and extreme fatigue because your body is undergoing a small civil war. It can be a very exhausting condition because your body is never fully at rest.
Some of the symptoms of RA can be initial joint pain, joint swelling, and joints that are tender to the touch. Your hands and feet might become red and puffy, and you might notice some bumps beneath the skin on your arms. These bumps are known to pain doctors as rheumatoid nodules. You might also see a fever, feel fatigued, have morning stiffness that lasts through the morning into the afternoons, and might see some weight loss to the amount of energy your body is producing during that 'civil war.'
So, how do you know if you're at risk for rheumatoid arthritis? There are some risk factors that you should discuss with your pain doctor. Those risk factors include your sex; women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis then are men. Your age is also a factor, as adults between the ages of 40 to 60 seem to develop the symptoms more frequently than other age groups. If a member of your family has battle rheumatoid arthritis, chances are you will be facing it as well.
Finally, smoking has been found to link directly with RA risk. However ironically, moderate drinking has been found to lessen your risk. This could be due to the fact that alcohol has been shown to suppress the activities of the immune system, thus limiting the immune system's ability to attack itself.