RA occurs when the immune system of a person accidentally attacks the body’s joint linings. The resulting inflammation can weaken and stretch ligaments and tendons which hold the joints together. As a result, these would lose their shape and alignment over time. Unfortunately, no specific trigger has been pinned down yet, but doctors and rheumatologists do suspect that genetic factors can lead to RA. Note that genes cannot actually cause RA, but can make a person more vulnerable to environmental factors likely to invite infection from certain bacteria and viruses, which can eventually trigger this health condition. Some other factors that can put you at higher risk of developing RA include the following.

  • Gender – women are more likely to get affected by RA when compared to men
  • Age – even though people can get affected by RA at any age, it is more likely to occur in middle age.
  • Family history – you are likely to get afflicted with RA if a member of your family has had this health condition in the past.
  • Smoking – many studies in the field claim that cigarette smoking tends to make people more vulnerable to RA, especially if a person already has a genetic susceptibility to developing the health condition.
  • Obesity – another factor which can raise a person’s chances of developing RA, especially if they are middle-aged, is excessive weight gain.
  • Environmental Exposure – some exposures such as those to silica and asbestos, can put you at higher risk of developing RA.

Furthermore, Rheumatoid Arthritis can lead to many other health complications. Some of those health issues are listed below.

  • Osteoporosis
  • Rheumatoid nodules
  • Dry eyes and mouth
  • Abnormal body composition
  • Infections
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Lung disease
  • Heart problems
  • Lymphoma

Diagnosis and Treatment

It is really challenging for a doctor to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis in the early stages since the early symptoms mimic those of many other common health conditions. Plus, there is no particular blood test or physical test which can conclusively tell you if you have rheumatoid arthritis. The primary examination used to diagnose the disease usually includes checking your body joints for inflammation, swelling, and pain. Plus, the doctor may check your muscle strength and body reflexes. Doctors also perform blood tests followed by imaging tests to detect rheumatoid arthritis. Note that a blood test can confirm the presence of inflammation in the body of the patient and imaging tests can indicate the progress of the disease. Common imaging tests include X-Ray, MRI scan, ultrasounds, etc.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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