It is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system in the human body attacks the joints of the body by mistake, causing irritation to those joints, which causes the surrounding tissues to swell, resulting in swelling and a feeling of pain in and around the affected joint, and if the inflammation continues without treatment it may It results in the destruction of the cartilage covering the two ends of the bone in the joint in addition to the bone itself. With the passage of time, the cartilage disappears and the space that was originally occupied by the cartilage becomes smaller, and thus the affected joints become painful, loose and unstable, and they may lose their ability to move, and the affected joint may also be deformed.
The damage to the joint cannot be reversed when it occurs, and since these damages may occur at an early stage in the course of the disease, doctors point to the importance of early diagnosis and appropriate treatment in controlling rheumatoid arthritis, as this disease usually affects the joints of the hand, foot, wrist, and knee And the ankle, and its effect on these joints is regular on both sides; That is, if the infection affects one hand, the other hand will often be affected as well. It also affects many joints at once.
This disease is considered a systemic disease. It affects various body systems, such as the heart and circulatory system, and the respiratory system. Statistics indicate that about one and a half million people have rheumatoid arthritis in the United States of America. Women are affected by this disease three times more than men, and the infection usually begins between the ages of 30 and 60 years, and males often suffer after this age. The incidence increases when there is a family history of rheumatoid arthritis, although there are no other injuries in the family for most patients.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is accompanied by many symptoms and signs, and although the early symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other arthritis diseases, there are symptoms that distinguish rheumatoid arthritis from others, and these symptoms include the following:
General fatigue: It is a common symptom felt by the patient at all stages of infection, especially when the irritation is active, and this occurs as a result of the body’s reaction to inflammation, lack of sleep, anemia, or due to taking medications. The fatigue associated with rheumatism may affect the patient’s personal life, work, and relationship with others, and it may also cause loss of appetite and weight loss.
Feeling of pain in the affected joint: This occurs as a result of joint irritation if the disease is in its active phase. The patient may also feel pain in the joint even if the disease is not active or if it is controlled with medication, and that is if there is previous joint destruction. In the active stage of rheumatoid arthritis, joint swelling occurs as a result of the swelling of the surrounding tissues, in addition to an increase in the amount of fluid in it.
Feeling of pain when pressing on the joint: This is due to the irritation of the nerves in the joint, and therefore the patient has difficulty sleeping.
Swelling of the affected joint: The degree of swelling may vary from mild and not noticeable to severe, which limits the range of motion in the affected joint.
Redness of the affected joint: the redness of the skin covering the irritated joint occurs; This is due to the expansion of the capillaries in it as one of the signs of inflammation. This does not necessarily happen in all sore joints.
High temperature of the affected joint: This occurs as a sign of inflammation as well, and the warmth of the affected joint is a signal through which doctors infer the course of the disease. If the disease responds to treatment, this sign will disappear.
Joint stiffness: This is felt more often by patients in the morning, and the stiffness becomes less severe after that.
Determining the range of motion in the affected joint: The patient notices his inability to fully move the joint, which is mainly caused by swelling of the tissues inside the joint.
Claudication: This will happen if rheumatism affects the joints of the pelvis, knee, ankle, or foot. Children with rheumatism usually develop claudication without pain as the first sign of the disease.
Deformity of the affected joint: This is caused by the erosion of cartilage and bones, in addition to the relaxation of the ligaments in the joint. Early detection and proper treatment of rheumatism are essential to reduce the occurrence of these abnormalities.
Anemia: This is because chronic rheumatoid arthritis affects the bone marrow’s work in producing red blood cells, so the numbers of these cells decrease. This is usually corrected if the rheumatism is treated properly.
High body temperature: Although it is rare due to rheumatism, some patients develop a slight fever in the active phase of the disease. When this happens, the patient’s infection must be taken into consideration, as he is taking medicines that weaken his immunity.
About 40% of patients with rheumatism suffer from symptoms and signs when it affects organs other than the joints, such as the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, salivary glands, nervous tissue, and blood vessels.
Factors that may increase the chance of developing rheumatism
There are several factors that increase the chance of developing this disease, including:
Sex: the rate of infection is higher among women.
Age: Although it may occur at any age, the incidence increases between the ages of 30 and 60 years.
Other family members of rheumatoid arthritis.
Smoking: In addition to increasing the smoker’s chance of getting sick, smoking contributes to exacerbating it among those affected.
Exposure to various environmental factors: It has been found that exposure of a person to certain materials, such as rockwool and silica, increases his chances of contracting the disease.
Being overweight or obese, especially among women.