Rheumatoid arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, swelling, and decreased range of motion. The disease typically affects the hands, wrists, and feet, but can also affect other parts of the body. RA is caused when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own joints, leading to damaging inflammation. Treatment options include medications and lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet, to reduce pain and stiffness.


The symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:

  • Joint swelling, stiffness, and pain in multiple joints, typically affecting both sides of the body
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Low-grade fever
  • Tenderness and warmth around the joints
  • Inflammation in other organs, such as the eyes, lungs and heart
  • Anemia
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Dry eyes, mouth and skin


The exact cause of Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is still unknown. However, genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a role in the development of RA.

Genetic factors likely play a role in RA as the disease is known to often run in families. Genes associated with the development of RA include those related to the immune system, such as HLA-DRB1.

Environmental factors that may play a role in the development of RA include infections such as bacteria and viruses, smoking, and occupational exposure to certain chemicals.

Risk factors

Risk factors for Rheumatoid arthritis include but are not limited to:

Age: The risk of developing Rheumatoid arthritis increases with age and it is most common in people over the age of 40.

Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop Rheumatoid arthritis.

Genetics: People who have a family history of Rheumatoid arthritis are at greater risk of developing the condition.

Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of developing Rheumatoid arthritis.

Obesity: People who are overweight or obese are at greater risk of developing Rheumatoid arthritis.

Infections: Infections caused by certain viruses and bacteria, such as hepatitis C and Epstein-Barr virus, may increase the risk of Rheumatoid arthritis.

Environmental factors: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as silica, can increase the risk of Rheumatoid arthritis.

Other autoimmune diseases: Having another autoimmune disease, such as lupus or Sjogren’s syndrome, increases the risk of developing Rheumatoid arthritis.


Rheumatoid arthritis is typically diagnosed by a combination of medical history, physical examination and laboratory tests. A physical exam will often involve a review of the joints, looking for signs of inflammation such as warmth, swelling, and tenderness. Lab tests are used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis and may include a rheumatoid factor (RF) blood test, an anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibody test, an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test, or a C-reactive protein (CRP) test. Imaging tests may also be used to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis and include x-rays or ultrasound.


Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect the joints, muscles, and other connective tissues throughout the body. It is a type of autoimmune disorder, meaning the body’s own immune cells and antibodies attack healthy tissue.

There are several different subtypes of Rheumatoid arthritis, each with their own distinct characteristics and symptoms. These include:

  1. ) Seropositive RA: This is the most common form of RA, and it is characterized by having a positive result on the RA test that detects a protein in the blood known as rheumatoid factor. Symptoms include pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints, along with fatigue, weight loss and fever.
  2. ) Seronegative RA: This form of RA is marked by a negative result on the RA test, but it still has the same symptoms as seropositive RA.
  3. ) Early Onset RA: This type of RA usually manifests itself in people under the age of 16, and it can be quite severe. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints, along with fatigue and fever.
  4. ) Felty Syndrome: This is an uncommon form of RA that is characterized by joint damage and an enlarged spleen. It is also known as Felty’s Syndrome, and it is associated with a high white blood cell count. Symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, and fever.
  5. ) Palindromic Rheumatism: This is a rare form of RA that involves brief episodes of pain and inflammation in the joints. Symptoms typically come and go, and they can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
  6. ) Psoriatic Arthritis: This form of RA is often associated with psoriasis, and it can affect the joints, bones, and tendons. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints, along with fatigue and weight loss.
  7. ) Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: This type of RA usually affects children and teens, and it is characterized by pain and stiffness in the joints. Other common symptoms include fatigue, fever, and rash.


The treatment options for Rheumatoid arthritis include the use of medication, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and surgery.

Medication: Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics are the primary medication treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. These drugs can slow down the progression of the disease and help reduce joint pain and inflammation. Common DMARDs include methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, and sulfasalazine. Common biologic medications include adalimumab, certolizumab, and infliximab.

Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can help reduce pain and improve the mobility of joints. It can also help strengthen muscles and protect joints from further damage.

Lifestyle Changes: Lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise can help reduce inflammation and pain. Eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in processed foods can help reduce inflammation and prevent unnecessary weight gain. Regular exercise can help strengthen muscles and reduce joint pain.

Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Joint replacement surgery can help reduce pain and improve mobility. Other procedures such as tendon repair, joint fusion, and arthroscopy may also be recommended.


The best way to reduce the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Staying physically active, eating a balanced and nutritious diet low in processed and fried foods, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and managing any underlying chronic health conditions are all important in reducing the risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Additionally, receiving the recommended vaccinations for illnesses such as the flu and pneumococcal pneumonia can also help reduce the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with RA, with a greater severity of symptoms and a higher rate of disability. Additionally, men tend to respond better to drug therapies than women, although this could be due to other factors such as lifestyle, weight and adherence to medication. Women are also more likely to report depression and anxiety related to the condition, which may affect the management of the condition. Furthermore, women with RA often experience changes in hormone levels, which could lead to symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, as well as changes in the levels of fatigue. Finally, the risk of developing osteoporosis is greater in women, which requires additional monitoring and management.


Nutrition plays a major role in the management of rheumatoid arthritis. Proper nutrition helps reduce inflammation and pain, boost the immune system, improve joint function, and maintain a healthy weight. It also helps reduce the risk of complications and comorbidities associated with the condition. Eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, and lean proteins can help reduce inflammation and pain. Incorporating foods like leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds can help reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and improve the health of joints. Additionally, avoiding foods that are pro-inflammatory, such as refined carbohydrates and added sugars, can help reduce inflammation and pain. Finally, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and limiting caffeine and alcohol can help reduce pain, promote better joint health, and reduce inflammation.

Physical Activity

Physical activity has been shown to have a positive effect on people with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Regular physical activity can help to reduce stiffness and improve muscle strength and overall joint health. Additionally, physical activity can help reduce inflammation, and improve self-confidence and overall quality of life for those with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Exercise programs designed specifically for people with RA can help manage pain and fatigue, which can improve physical functioning. Finally, physical activity can reduce the risk of developing secondary conditions, such as osteoporosis, which is common in individuals with RA. Overall, people with RA who are physically active may experience better health outcomes.

Further Reading

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441999/
  2. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/rheumatoid-arthritis-treatment-beyond-the-basics
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4924-rheumatoid-arthritis
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/rheumatoidarthritis.html
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648
  6. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/331715-overview
  7. https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/rheumatoid-arthritis

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