Harlan Still & Koch

What are the effects of rheumatoid arthritis?

Arthritis is a common condition in Missouri, especially among older people, though in some cases middle-aged people have been forced to stop working because of the pain and other symptoms of the condition. Actually, there are two types of arthritis, one of which is more likely to affect people in their 40s and 50s.

Unlike osteoarthritis, which is caused by deterioration of the cartilage in the joints, rheumatoid arthritis (or RA) is caused by a problem in the immune system. Due to unknown reasons, the immune system of people with RA attacks healthy cells in their body, including the cells that line their joints. It could be that a combination of genes and infectious disease trigger RA, which affects more than 1.5 million people in the U.S.

As the joints are attacked, fluid builds up that causes inflammation and pain. Eventually, the cartilage can be eroded, causing bone loss. Besides your hands, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles, RA can cause problems in your skin, eyes, even your heart and lungs. Patients often must deal with fever, loss of appetite and fatigue.

Treatments are available to slow the progress of the disease. Drugs called DMARDS help many patients. People with RA may be able to help themselves through special exercises and dietary changes.

Still, people who develop RA in their 40s and 50s may be forced to stop working. Fortunately for them, RA is a qualifying condition for the Social Security Disability Insurance program for people with sufficient work history. This could help them make up the income they lost.

Source: Eagle-Tribune, “Knowing the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis,” Rosanne DiStefano, June 16, 2014

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