What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis in Adults
For centuries, man has been plagued by rheumatoid arthritis in adults. There is proof from Egyptian mummies that this disease was present around 1500 BC. Likewise, Christopher Columbus is known to have suffered from a rare form of arthritis. Millions today are afflicted by this crippling disease. About 1.3 million Americans have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Besides, at least 1 percent of the world’s population is affected by it. Generally, women are more prone to it than men.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic and progressive inflammatory condition that causes painful swelling and stiffness in the joints. The pain is not consistent at all times. Rather, there are flare-ups: a period when the symptoms become severe and period when they subside. This swelling occurs when the lining of the joint is affected by the disease. Eventually, it can result in bone erosion and deformity of joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an Autoimmune disorder
As opposed to the wear-and-tear bone damage caused by osteoarthritis, RA is an autoimmune disorder. This is when a person’s immune system – which usually fights infection – attacks healthy body tissue, thus causing chronic inflammation. RA synovial cells (tissues that contour the inside of joints) multiply uncontrollably. These then form a mass of tissue that produces harmful enzymes which in turn weaken the cartilage. As a result, the bone surfaces stick together which, in turn, restricts motion and causes devastating pain.
In its early stages, RA tends to invade the smaller joints first such as finger and toe joints. But over time, the disease spreads to the wrist, elbows, knees, ankles, and hips. Often, RA will also affect other non-joint body parts like eyes, skin, nerves, and blood vessels.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis in adults?
As yet, the specific cause of RA is unknown. So far research indicates that physical, genetic, and environmental factors may have a role in a person’s risk for RA. Over the years, studies have concluded that you could be susceptible if your family has a history of RA, if you are a woman, if you are between the ages of 40 to 60, or if you smoke. Researchers are still investigating other factors that may be responsible. Some of the factors are:
1. Joint injury
Severe injury or trauma to a joint may trigger continuous localized persistent inflammation. This may go on for an unspecified period. Eventually, it can result in the spread of inflammation to various other joints.
Though not commonly known, obesity does raise the risk of getting RA. Nearly 2/3 of adults living with RA are obese. This is because fat cells discharge proteins which provoke the inflammation already present in the joints. As you add weight, the proteins circulating in the body increase causing even more severe rheumatoid arthritis in adults. In addition to this, excess fat mass increases stress especially on weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips. Each pound of extra weight brings about four pounds of excess pressure on the knees. This is why overweight people have a higher risk of developing RA.
3. Neurological diseases
Extensive research has helped healthcare professionals to see the link between neurological diseases and rheumatoid arthritis in adults. A wide spectrum of neurological disorders occurs in RA resulting in strokes, migraines, dementia to name a few.
A quality life still possible even with rheumatoid arthritis
True, rheumatoid arthritis has no cure. But the good news is that new types of medication have significantly improved treatment options for this condition. Early treatment can prevent the condition from worsening and could help patients lead a full life.
Treatment is not all about medicine. Rest, exercise, splints, braces, and assistive devices are also used in managing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in adults. The goal of treating it is to suppress pain, reduce inflammation and improve the patient’s overall quality of life.
At Fairview Rehab & Nursing Home in Queens, NY, we believe that no chronic condition, including RA, should impair the quality of life of an older adult. We are a 24-hour rehabilitation and nursing home facility in Forest Hills, Queens, NY. Here, we have a well equipped and dedicated team of therapists that are sensitive to each individual’s needs.