Finding Answers & Relief from Rheumatoid Arthritis
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Finding Answers & Relief from Rheumatoid Arthritis

For the majority of us, our immune system is key to enjoying good health. But for roughly 24 million people in the United States, it can be the source of significant discomfort and health challenges due to more than 80 autoimmune diseases, including lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, tissues, and organs. How and where these ‘attacks’ occur determine the type of resulting disease. For 1.5 million American adults and another 300,000 children, that disease is autoimmune and autoinflammatory arthritis (AiArthritis).

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common form of autoimmune arthritis, affecting 1% of adults.  This condition causes inflammation in the lining of the joints. While RA most often causes pain and stiffness in the hands, wrist, and feet, it can rarely affect tissues and organs throughout the body including the lungs, heart, and eyes.

Some symptoms that distinguish it from other types of arthritis include:

  • swelling and pain experienced in the same joints on both sides of the body, particularly the hands, wrists and feet 
  • morning stiffness that improves as the day goes on  
  • hard bumps of tissue under the skin of the arms
  • reduced range of motion
  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • dry eyes
  • anemia

In some cases, RA can also contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome or osteoporosis. More alarmingly, RA is linked to lung and heart complications including:

  • lung inflammation and scarring
  • abnormal tissue (nodules) in the lungs 
  • hardening of arteries or cardiovascular disease
  • inflammation of the outer lining of the heart (pericarditis)

Although the cause of autoimmune diseases is mostly unknown, research suggest that genetics and certain risk factors can contribute. Potential genetic and risk factors of concern include:

  • being female
  • smoking
  • periodontal disease
  • being overweight
  • stress
  • insufficient sleep (less than 8 to 10 hours per night)

Untreated, RA can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. However, there are many treatments available that can help you lead a happy fulfilling life. Depending upon your symptoms and risk factors, your doctor may offer the following treatment options: lifestyle changes, medications, dietary changes, and specific exercises.

If you’re struggling with RA or any other type of AiArthritis, talk to your doctor about your treatment options and any lifestyle changes that may be beneficial.


Matthew Stanishewski, DO, is a rheumatologist at SVMC Rheumatology.


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