What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
So have you ever heard of Rheumatoid Arthritis? If so, how much do you think you really know about this disease? Unless you or someone close to you has been afflicted by this condition, the odds are that you probably don’t know that much about it. Well, this new Infographic should help to illustrate this chronic condition, as well as provide a little information on some of the organizations which work to help RA patients and their families all over the United States. Get the full picture here: What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? [Infographic]
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition. This disease can affect a number of different tissues and even organs, but mostly, the patient’s joints are affected by rheumatoid arthritis. In particular, the flexible synovial membrane of the joints is damaged by this inflammatory condition. The smaller joints located in the hands and the feet are at the highest risk of RA related damage. The typical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include pain, swelling (inflammation), and stiffness. Some RA patients may lose function in their joints, as the disease progresses to a later stage. Similar to lupus or Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis is classified as an autoimmune disease, meaning the patient’s immune system has mistaken healthy tissues in the body for pathogens and attacked them.
Areas Affected by RA
Rheumatoid arthritis can have an immediate effect on the patient’s smaller joints. The joints in your hands, feet, knees, ankles, wrists, and elbows are all in serious danger if you have been diagnosed with RA. Rheumatoid arthritis causes the synovial membrane, which lines the joints, to become inflamed. Doctors refer to this inflammation of the synovial membrane as synovitis, or in laymen’s terms “arthritis of the joints”. An RA patient’s joints will become swollen, tender, and stiff. In most RA cases, the disease will end up affecting more than one joint in the patient’s body. Unfortunately, the joints are not the only thing that RA patients need to mindful of. Rheumatoid arthritis is often referred to as a systemic disease, which means it can affect other parts of the body (such as the organs and other body systems).
RA Stats in America
Currently, it is estimated that there are at least 2.1 million Americans who are living with this chronic inflammatory condition. In other words, nearly 1% of the U.S. population is afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis. Many people consider this to be an “old person’s” disease; but unfortunately, RA can develop in young adults and children as well. The majority of RA cases (around 80%) are diagnosed in patients between the ages of 35 and 50. Surprisingly, RA research has shown that women are three times more likely to develop RA compared to men. These conditions have had a serious economic effect on this country as well. If you calculate out all the medical care and other indirect costs, these conditions cost the U.S. economy nearly $128 billion a year!
Rheumatoid arthritis is notoriously difficult to diagnose accurately in the earlier stages of the disease. Often times, the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can mimic those common with a number of other conditions. For this reason, the American College of Rheumatology developed a list of seven criteria to help accurately diagnose RA in its earlier stages. The RA Infographic shows all seven of these criteria, which doctors will be looking for during the physical. If a patient has four of the seven criteria, then an accurate diagnosis can be made.
Available Medication for RA
Currently, medication is the most common treatment used for RA patients. These RA medications are prescribed based on the severity of the condition, how quickly it is progressing, and its effect on the patient’s daily life. Based on the patient’s symptoms, their doctor may have them take a lower dose or even stop medication all together. Of course, when RA symptoms return, they will have to start on medication again. This new RA Infographic lists some of the more common medications that are available to RA patients. During your course of treatment, it is very important that doctor and patient collaborate often to make sure the medication is working effectively. There have been some side effects linked to these rheumatoid arthritis medications, so do not hesitate to inform your doctor if any should occur.
RA in the Public Eye
Interestingly, the first documented case of rheumatoid arthritis was not that long ago. In fact, many claim that the famous French impressionist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, was the first well documented case of RA in history. Since Renoir, there have been a number of famous figures who have come forward with their diagnosis. Well-known actresses such as Lucille Ball and Kathleen Turner both lived with this condition, and they were able to continue working despite their symptoms. The brilliant British chemist, Dorothy Hodgkin, was diagnosed with RA when she was only 24 years old. Despite her condition, she went on to pioneer X-ray crystallography, which was crucial in helping doctors learn more about this inflammatory arthritis. These public figures serve as incredible success stories which help to raise awareness for this disease and the millions who are affected by RA all over the world. Please be sure to check the full list available on the new RA Infographic.