There are a great number of different types of arthritis. As a broad category, it refers to conditions that involve inflammation of the joints. If you experience joint pain or joint disease, you may have a form of arthritis.
Since “arthritis” tends to be used as an umbrella term to refer to joint inflammation such as pain in the hands and wrists, knees, elbows, hips, or ankles and feet, it’s generally helpful to identify what type of arthritis you have in order to find the right treatment.
Rheumatoid Arthritis, along with osteoarthritis is one of most common versions of arthritis. While common, it is also one of the higher impact types, and may involve significant side effects.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis, specifically, It’s classed as an “autoimmune disease”, which refers to when a person’s immune system gets confused and starts attacking natural parts of the body instead of threatening foreign bodies.
Your immune system normally identifies and fights off things that are bad for you, like bacteria or cold and flu viruses. It does this by creating inflammation in response to foreign influences. But sometimes it fails to properly differentiate between bad outside influences and natural parts of your body that you need to live, and tries to fight off things that you don’t want to lose.
When you have an autoimmune disease, your body starts creating inflammation in reaction to things that are naturally present in your body. In the short term, inflammation can cause pain and swelling, impact your energy levels, and make you feel unwell.
It’s much the same effect as when you fall ill or have an injury. But since the thing your immune system is targeting isn’t foreign to your body and can’t be eliminated, the inflammation can continue for a long time or reoccur frequently.
There are different levels of severity and different stages of progression when it comes to Rheumatoid Arthritis, so the effects and experience can be unpredictable. You may experience acute flare ups, where inflammation, pain, and otherwise uncomfortable symptoms increase, but the disease is considered chronic, in that it continues at a greater or lesser degree and isn’t simply cured by a course of treatment. It generally does progress, albeit at a slow pace, and can cause both worsening symptoms, as well as lasting damage as a side effect.
While early and proactive courses of treatment can reduce the effects of arthritis, prolonged inflammation can have negative side effects such as lasting damage to cartilage and bone in and around your joints, and the surrounding tissues including muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
It’s important to see a qualified medical practitioner, get a diagnosis, and start treatment as soon as possible to limit and manage the damage. While Rheumatoid Arthritis cannot be eradicated, its impact can be moderated. Damage in and around your joints can be irreversible if inflammation is not addressed, and quality of life can suffer during flare-ups, but limiting triggering factors and proactively treating the disease can significantly improve patient outcomes.