What is Rheumatoid Arthritis – Causes and Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic and systemic inflammatory disorder. It mostly affects the age-group of 40-50 years. Women are three times more prone to this disease than men. 46 million people are estimated to be affected with this disease in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2030, this estimation is projected to reach 67 millions. This article tries to gain further insight on the causes and symptoms of this disease.

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis: It is a form of autoimmune disorder. Like all other ailments of this class, the cause is not known yet, unfortunately. The body’s natural defense mechanism is called the immune system. It protects our body from external and internal threats. When cells belonging to this system turn hostile for some unknown reasons, a person suffers from an autoimmune disorder. Here the body’s own cells try to destroy the healthy cells in the body and disrupt the normal functioning of the body.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis: This disorder is systemic by nature. Any ailment is called so when it affects more than one location of the body. It is chronic too which means the disorder makes frequent recurrences after a period of time. Autoimmunity is responsible for both the natures of this disease. Joint pains and anemia are very common signs. 15-25 patients suffer from complications outside the joints too. Medications used to treat this disease also add to the complications making it difficult to find out whether the apparent signs are the symptoms of the disease or the manifestations of the medicinal side-effects. Following are some of the signs to look out for depending on their locations in the body:


  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Warm joint
  • Collection of fluids
  • Joint pain


  • Pain
  • Infection
  • Ulceration
  • Neuropathy
  • Limited joint mobility
  • Fistula formation
  • Skin fragility
  • Rice paper skin
  • Pyoderma gangrenosum
  • Drug reactions
  • Palmar erythema
  • Sweet’s syndrome
  • Lobular panniculitis
  • Erythema nodosum
  • Atrophy of digital skin


  • Fibrosis
  • Caplan’s Syndrome
  • Pleural Effusions


  • Renal amyloidosis
  • Kidney glomerulus problems
  • Membranous nephropathy

Heart and Blood Vessels:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Fibrosis
  • Valvulitis
  • Left ventricular failure
  • Pericarditis
  • Endocarditis


  • Episcleritis
  • Scleromalacia
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca
  • Keratitis
  • Loss of vision

Other Symptoms are:

  • Felty’s syndrome
  • Loss of weight
  • Neutropenia
  • Morning stiffness
  • Thrombocytosis
  • Low grade fever
  • Peropheral neuropathy
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Malaise
  • Mononeuritis multiplex
  • Loss of appetite
  • Atlanto-axial subluxation
  • Quadriplegia
  • Fatigue
  • Osteoporosis
  • Lymphoma

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