Rheumatoid Arthritis - Experience

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What is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body's tissues are mistakenly attacked by their own immune system. The immune system contains a complex organization of cells and antibodies designed normally to "seek and destroy" invaders of the body, particularly infections. Patients with autoimmune diseases have antibodies and immune cells in their blood that target their own body tissues, where they can be associated with inflammation. While inflammation of the tissue around the joints and inflammatory arthritis are characteristic features of rheumatoid arthritis, the disease can also cause inflammation and injury in other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. Rheumatoid arthritis that begins in people under 16 years of age is referred to as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (formerly juvenile rheumatoid arthritis).

Pictures of Normal and Arthritic Joints - Rheumatoid Arthritis
Picture of a joint with rheumatoid arthritis

While rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic illness, meaning it can last for years, patients may experience long periods without symptoms. However, rheumatoid arthritis is typically a progressive illness that has the potential to cause significant joint destruction and functional disability.

A joint is where two bones meet to allow movement of body parts. Arthritis means joint inflammation. The joint inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis causes swelling, pain, stiffness, and redness in the joints. The inflammation of rheumatoid disease can also occur in tissues around the joints, such as the tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

In some people with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammation leads to the destruction of the cartilage, bone, and ligaments, causing deformity of the joints. Damage to the joints can occur early in the disease and be progressive. Moreover, studies have shown that the progressive damage to the joints does not necessarily correlate with the degree of pain, stiffness, or swelling present in the joints.

Picture of rheuamtoid arthritis joint deformity in the feet
Picture of rheumatoid arthritis joint deformity in the feet; Image provided by Getty Images

Rheumatoid arthritis is a common rheumatic disease, affecting approximately 1.3 million people in the United States, according to current census data. The disease is three times more common in women as in men. It afflicts people of all races equally. The disease can begin at any age and even affects children (juvenile idiopathic arthritis), but it most often starts after 40 years of age and before 60 years of age. Though uncommon, in some families, multiple members can be affected, suggesting a genetic basis for the disorder.

Return to Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Vmitch, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: January 14

I had very sudden onset of projectile vomiting and my legs tingled. I had to be helped to the car. It felt like a heart attack could only breathe when my right arm was above my head. That was the 1st time and I went to emergency room. Second was a month later, the quick vomiting and legs would work, so I went to Urgent Care. Neither if these visits said a word about rheumatoid arthritis. The 3rd time I barely made it to the bathroom to vomit and once on the potty my knees hurt so badly I couldn't get off. I had to scoot on the floor where I later, for 4 hours, was trying to get up. I could do nothing from waist down. A friend came over and helped me up. She thought it was multiple sclerosis. This time I did nothing but take Lortab and slept all through the next day. I could walk the next day but hurt really bad. Eventually I went to a rheumatologist. My CRP was 265, normal is 1 - 4.9 and all blood work indicated rheumatoid arthritis, high sedimentation rate and RA panel of labs. Now I'm on Prilosec for my stomach issues and I'm back on Plaquenil and have bad pain pretty often.

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Comment from: Aussie2, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 21

I have suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for the last 38 years. It is in my family, hereditary. All the usual drugs for it have not worked (including 3 biologics) or stopped after a while, and I lost half a lung to fungus infection on one of the first line drugs. I still take ketaprofen and prednisolone. I started natural supplement SAMe-SL methionine 200 mg, 6 weeks ago and within that time it has made my ESR 8 and CRP 11 - lowest for 38 years. It also reduced rheumatoid factor to 800 (from 1695). So next week I'll be cutting prednisolone back to 3. Hopefully when I can afford to take 400 mg SAMe-SL I can cut out all prednisolone and the ketaprofen.

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