Rheumatoid ArthritisCondition Introduction
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune conditions occur when the immune system mistakenly targets and attacks specific healthy cells in the body, causing damage. In RA, the immune system attacks the lining of the joints, which causes pain and swelling. This can also cause stiffness, loss of normal movement, and sometimes change the shape of joints. The inflammation from RA can occur in other areas of the body too. The cause of RA is unknown; however, genetic factors and bacteria and/or viruses may play a role. Women are more likely to get RA compared to men and make up about 75% of RA cases.How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects the Body
People with rheumatoid arthritis often have periods of symptoms called “flare-ups” and symptom-free times, called “remission”. RA usually first appears in the small joints of the hands and feet, but can later move to larger joints like wrists, elbows, and knees. Other health problems can develop as well. These problems include low iron, fever, eye inflammation, infection, and extreme tiredness. People with RA may also be at higher risk of having heart disease, certain types of cancer, gastrointestinal diseases, and osteoporosis (low bone density).
There are many treatment goals. These goals involve reducing pain, lowering inflammation, slowing the spread of the disease through the body, and improving quality of life. Common RA treatments include medications and surgery. Lifestyle changes, like diet, getting enough sleep, stress management, and exercise, are also an important part of staying well with RA.
To better understand Rheumatoid Arthritis, your symptoms, and how nutrition is affected, see the table below for more details.