Rheumatoid arthritis affects over 17 million people in the United States alone and is considered a chronic systemic inflammatory disorder. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is usually diagnosed when the joints are experiencing a severe flare up with a majority of the time being an intense inflammatory response. The joints are affected by RA but other body parts can also be affected like the lungs, eyes, skin and other bones. Many people do not know that RA has a tendency to attack the joints but once it starts it can be difficult to stop. Once RA becomes chronic then any joint in the body is prone to having joint inflammation as well as stiffness.
RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning that it is caused by your immune system attacking healthy tissue. But it is not yet fully known what causes this to occur. Studies have shown that people who develop rheumatoid arthritis are at a higher risk for developing gastrointestinal tract infections, which can lead to higher risk of ulcers.
Joints play a very important role in our bodies and it helps to maintain a healthy structure by connecting bone to other bones and muscles. Joints are also very important for a healthy cartilage so once rheumatoid arthritis develops the cartilage is no longer able to produce new cartilage to replace what is damaged. Because there is not enough glucosamine in the joints new structures cannot be built and the joints are not working properly. This leads to a lack of mobility is one of the hallmarks of RA.
There is no cure for RA, the treatment is only management and prevention. Management is basically keeping the symptoms under control and this can be done with medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids and joint supplements. Prevention is basically controlling the progression of the disease and this can be done with diet, exercise, stress reduction techniques and a healthy lifestyle. A recent study conducted at the University of Nebraska Medical Center showed that a certain type of dairy food may help to slow down the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. The scientists say that the beneficial effect of dairy in this study was linked to the high levels of glucosamine in the milk.
There are some genetic risk factors that may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. If your parents or someone in your family has the disease, you have a higher risk of developing it yourself. People that are overweight or obese and have low levels of certain vitamins may increase the risk of this condition. It has also been proven that the menopause may increase the risk of RA.
Osteoarthritis is inflammation of the joints. RA is often thought of as a cause of aging but the symptoms of this disease is often seen in the elderly. Osteoarthritis can be caused by many things. Some theories of autoimmune disease propose that it may be genetic, stress induced, repetitive movements, injury and trauma to the joints. Other causes are thought to be the use of certain medications including NSAIDs, corticosteroids and antibiotics. When rheumatoid arthritis is suspected, the patient will undergo a battery of tests to determine what type of arthritis she may have and to find out if there is an underlying cause.