Rheumatoid Arthritis

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, which means that your body attacks healthy tissue. It is a systemic inflammatory disease, which shows up in multiple joints. RA affects joint lining, and occasionally organs. Inflamed joint linings erode cartilage and bone, and cause deformity in your joints. 


The classifications of RA, from most common to lease, are:

Progressive: in which the disease continues to worsen, without pause.

Polycyclic: in which RA activity levels occur in cycles, and change over time. 

Monocyclic: in which there is only one episode of RA, which typically ends within 2-5 years.

  • ​Aggressive treatment and early diagnosis can cause RA to go into remission


Why Should You Care?

RA is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, affective approximately  1% of the U.S. population

  • Increased risk for heart disease and stroke
  • 15,600 hospitalizations in 2004
    • ​Total cost - $545,000,000
  • ​Average costs - $6,777 per year (2 times higher than OA)
  • Estimated lifetime cost
    • ​$122,000 in 1995
    • $186,000 in 2013


Causes

Although we haven't identified the exact reason for RA, it is thought to be due to a faulty immune response in your body.


Risk Factors

Demographics

  • 2-3x higher in women
    • ​Usually in 40-60's

​Genetics

  • PTPN22 is a possible indicator

Modifiable

  • Smoking (1.3-2.4x higher risk)
  • Hormone replacement therapy has a mixed association
  • Live birth appears to decrease risks of developing RA
    • ​Irregular menses or early menopause appear to increase RA risk levels


Symptoms

  • Pain in joints
  • Swelling in joints
  • Redness
  • Loss of energy
  • Low fevers
  • Loss of appetite

Rarely

  • Dry eyes (sometimes Sjogren's syndrome)
  • Firm lumps (rheumatic nodules) underneath skin in elbows and hands

Treatments

There is no known cure for RA, but it can be managed. Ideal diagnosis and aggressive treatment work best when started within six weeks from onset

  • DMARDs (Disease-Modifying AntiRheumatic Drugs) have proven effective recently

Best treatments appear to be a combination of biological agents (like DMARDs) and methotrexate

  • Work with your local rheumatologist


Resources

The CDC has more detailed information on RA