Rheumatoid arthritis is what’s known as an ‘autoimmune’ disorder. This means that your bodies immune system is attacking your own body’s tissues by mistake. This attack on your body’s tissues affects your joints and can lead to painful swelling, bone erosion and joint deformity.
To this day, many still believe arthritis to be a result of getting older or simply an elderly disorder. This is not true. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can develop in those as young as 30.
Why an Early Diagnosis is Important:
In its first 2 years, rheumatoid arthritis can cause a significant amount of damage, this is why it is so important to look out for any warning signs and talk to your doctor.
If diagnosed in time, an effective treatment or preventative therapy plan can be put in place to help you reduce the risk of some negative long-term outcomes.
Rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult to diagnose straight away but there are some signs to keep an eye out for:
- Tender, warm and/or swollen joints that last 5+ weeks
- Joint stiffness that lasts 5+ weeks
- Loss of appetite
If you or someone you know experience some of the above symptoms, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor for further care and advice.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
Sadly, there are no known causes of rheumatoid arthritis.
Research to date suggests there are certain genes in our body’s that play a part in the immune system, that are linked to developing it. Having these genes, doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop rheumatoid arthritis. It simply means, you have a tendency to develop it.
Researchers now believe that something must trigger RA in people who have those certain genes. Of course, there is no hard evidence to cement this idea down, but it is thought that the following could be possible triggers:
- Infection or Virus
- Hormonal changes in your body
How do they Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis?
RA, can be hard to diagnose in its early stages because its early signs mimic those of many other diseases. Unfortunately, there is no one test to give you a definite answer. Here’s how your doctor may go about investigating if you have rheumatoid arthritis or not:
The physical exam will include the checking of your joints for swelling, redness and warmth. They could also check your reflexes and overall muscle strength.
Blood Tests & X-rays
After the physical exam, your doctor may wish to take a blood sample to look for the CRP (C-reactive protein) and ESR/sed rate (elevated erythrocyte sedimentation).
If the amount of the CRP and ESR/sed rate are higher than they should generally be, this could indicate the presence of an inflammatory process in your body i.e. Rheumatoid Arthritis.
The final step in the diagnosis would be to send you for an X-ray. This is simply to help your doctor to understand your arthritis and its progression (where it is).
Helpful tips for those living with arthritis:
In the past we have shared and written about a number of ways to help those living with arthritis better cope at home. Please feel free to more below: