What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes “pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers,” according to U.S National Library of Medicine. Unlike osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis that develops as we age, RA is an autoimmune disease. Like most autoimmune diseases, RA is more common in women than men. The disease usually develops in middle age and is more common in older people.
What is an autoimmune disease?
According to Medline Plus, an “autoimmune disorder occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys healthy body tissue by mistake.” The prevalence of autoimmune diseases is increasing and there are over 80 kinds of autoimmune disorders.
The bodies immune system is designed to protect the body from foreign and harmful substances. Dangerous substances that enter the body are called antigens. Antigens range from fungi, parasites, bacteria, cancer cells, virus, and toxins. To prevent these substances from spreading and damaging the body, the immune system launches an attack through the white blood cells to destroy antigens that have entered the body.
The immune systems creates antibodies to identify and locate antigens. Occasionally, the antibodies begin to misidentify antigens. Instead of identifying harmful foreign substances, they begin to target the body’s own cells. If a person’s antibodies mistake the body's cells for antigens, it will launch an attack on the body itself. This can result in body tissue being destroyed, abnormal growth of an organ, and changes in an organ’s function. The misidentification of antigens is an autoimmune disease.
The catalyst that triggers antibodies to attack the body is unknown. Certain genes make the body more prone to autoimmune disease, but do not cause the development of an autoimmune disease. Some theorize that bacteria, viruses, or drugs may confuse the immune system and trigger the disease. It is generally believed that genes, hormones, and the environment all play a factor in the development of an autoimmune disease.
RA Symptoms and Treatment
Symptoms of RA are variable. The feet, hands and wrists are usually the first joints affected. Symptoms can include one or more of the following:
- Swollen and tender or painful joints
- Stiffness of difficulty moving joints (particularly in the morning)
- Red and swollen hands
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Rheumatoid nodules (hard bumps near joints, under the skin).
RA can affect all joints and develop in other body parts., such as the lungs, mouth and eyes. The disease can be short lived or last a lifetime, and symptoms can come and go.
Treatment includes lifestyle changes, medicine and surgery. Treatment is designed to halt or slow joint damage and reduce swelling and pain caused by RA. A good resource to learn more about the treatment of RA is this article, by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
For some individuals, diet can help reduce symptoms and pain. Some studies show that there is a connection between gluten and arthritis. The article published by the Arthritis Foundation states, “According to Dr. Rosian, inflammation outside the gut is especially likely to affect the joints. She adds that many of her RA patients who are sensitive to gluten notice less joint pain when they don't eat it.”
Kay’s Naturals provides a healthy, low-sugar, and gluten free snacks and cereals. To learn more about Kay’s, visit our website. Any personal views expressed on this blog are the writers’ own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Kay’s Naturals, Inc. It is recommended that you seek independent medical advice before making any decisions that can impact your health.