Rheumatoid arthritis - 10 things you should know

Rheumatoid arthritis – 10 things you should know

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, inflammatory condition that affects the joints, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. It is important to better understand this disease in order to be able to manage the symptoms and ensure a better quality of life for those affected. In this article, we will explore ten essential aspects related to rheumatoid arthritis.



  1. RA causes
  2. Symptoms of RA
  3. Early diagnosis
  4. The Role of Genetic Factors
  5. Personalized Treatment
  6. Impact on Quality of Life
  7. Systemic complications
  8. The Role of Physical Exercises
  9. Alternative and Complementary Medicine
  10. Future Perspectives


1. RA causes

The causes of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are complex and involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. A central aspect of this condition is its autoimmune nature, where the immune system, responsible for defending the body against infection, misdirects its attention to its own tissues.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the synovial membranes, which are the tissues that cover the joints. These membranes are essential for the proper functioning of the joints, facilitating their movement and ensuring proper lubrication. When the immune system attacks these membranes, the result is inflammation, swelling and joint damage.

Although the exact mechanism that triggers this autoimmune reaction is not yet fully understood, there are several factors that may contribute to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis. An important factor is genetic predisposition. People with certain genes may have a higher risk of developing RA, but this is not the only cause.


2. Symptoms of RA

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are diverse and can vary depending on the severity of the disease and how it progresses over time. It is important to recognize and understand these symptoms in order to initiate the earliest and most effective treatment. Here is a more detailed development of the characteristic symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Joint Pain

Joint pain is a central symptom of rheumatoid arthritis and can affect several joints simultaneously or at different times during the course of the disease. This pain can be felt as a tingling, throbbing or burning sensation, and its intensity can range from mild to severe. The pain may be worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity.

  • Joint Swelling

Joint swelling is the result of inflammation produced by the immune system in the synovial membranes. Affected joints become swollen, tender to the touch and can sometimes have a higher temperature than the rest of the body. Persistent swelling can lead to joint damage and deformities.

  • Joint Stiffness

Joint stiffness is another hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis. Patients may experience joint stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity. This symptom may affect the ability to move and may last more than an hour.

  • Muscle Weakness

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause muscle weakness, and patients may experience a general feeling of fatigue and exhaustion. This weakness can occur both in the muscles near the affected joints and throughout the body.

  • Symmetric Affection

A distinctive feature of rheumatoid arthritis is symmetrical joint damage. This means that usually the same joints on both sides of the body are involved at the same time. For example, if a finger joint on the left hand is affected, the same joint on the right hand is likely to show similar symptoms.

  • Variability of Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can vary in intensity and may come and go during periods called “flare-ups” and “remissions”. Flare-ups are periods when symptoms worsen, while remissions are periods when symptoms are milder or even absent.

Symptoms of RA

3. Early diagnosis

Early diagnosis is an essential element in the effective treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), having a significant impact on the prognosis and quality of life of patients. Here are some relevant points that emphasize the importance of early diagnosis in the management of rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Preventing Joint Damage

One of the main reasons early diagnosis is crucial in rheumatoid arthritis is the ability to prevent joint damage. In the early stages of the disease, prompt treatment can help control inflammation and slow down the process of joint tissue destruction. If rheumatoid arthritis is left untreated or is diagnosed at an advanced stage, irreversible damage to the joints can occur, which significantly affects the functionality and mobility of the patient.

  • Symptom Management and Quality of Life Improvement

Early diagnosis allows rapid initiation of an appropriate treatment plan, which can help control symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life. Joint pain, swelling and stiffness can be managed more effectively with early therapeutic interventions, allowing the patient to maintain optimal joint function and lead as normal a life as possible.

  • Prevention of Systemic Complications

Rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t just affect the joints; it can also have systemic complications involving internal organs such as the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Early diagnosis and appropriate management can help prevent these complications and maintain overall health.

  • Optimizing Treatment Response

Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can vary depending on the stage of the disease and individual response to therapy. An early diagnosis gives the doctor the opportunity to more effectively adapt the treatment plan according to the specific needs of the patient and to optimize the management of the disease.

  • Patient Involvement in Therapeutic Decisions

Early diagnosis allows the patient to be more active in the decision-making process regarding treatment. Early understanding of the disease and treatment options gives the patient the opportunity to collaborate with the medical team in developing a personalized plan that aligns with their individual needs.

Early diagnosis

4. The Role of Genetic Factors

The role of genetic factors in the occurrence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is well established, and genetic predisposition is one of the main pillars of this autoimmune disease. However, it is important to emphasize that genetics is not the only determining factor in the development of AR, but interacts in a complex manner with environmental factors.

  • Genetic Predisposition

Studies have shown that there are certain genes associated with an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. HLA-DRB1 is an example of a gene with a strong link to AR. People who inherit certain variants of this gene have an increased risk of developing the disease. However, although genetic predisposition is important, not everyone who inherits these genes actually develops RA. Thus, environmental and other factors may intervene crucially.

  • Interaction with Environmental Factors

Even if a person has a genetic predisposition to RA, it is not an inevitable fate. Environmental factors, such as exposure to certain infections, smoking, stress and other lifestyle factors, can play an important role in triggering the disease in those with a genetic susceptibility. Infections, in particular, have been associated with the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in some cases, suggesting that they may activate the immune system and help initiate the autoimmune response.

  • The Complexity of Genetic and Environmental Interaction

The interplay between genetic and environmental factors in the occurrence of AR is complex and still not fully understood. It is believed that certain events or exposures in a person’s life can trigger abnormal immune reactions in those with a genetic predisposition. These incorrect immune reactions can cause the chronic inflammation characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Importance of Risk Factor Assessment

Identifying the genetic and environmental factors associated with rheumatoid arthritis is essential to develop personalized prevention and treatment strategies. People with a family history of RA may benefit from closer monitoring and preventive interventions to minimize the risk of developing the disease.

The Role of Genetic Factors

5. Personalized Treatment

Management of rheumatoid arthritis usually involves a personalized approach. Anti-inflammatory medications, lifestyle changes, and physical therapy are just a few treatment options that can be customized to the individual patient’s needs.

6. Impact on Quality of Life

Rheumatoid arthritis can significantly affect the patient’s quality of life. Chronic pain and discomfort can lead to emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression. Emotional support and counseling can be essential in managing these issues.

7. Systemic complications

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), in addition to its impact on the joints, can cause systemic complications, affecting internal organs and contributing to various conditions. Understanding these complications is crucial to ensure a complete and appropriate management of the disease.

  • Affecting the Cardiovascular System

Rheumatoid arthritis can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The chronic inflammation associated with RA can damage the artery wall, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis and blood clots. RA patients may also have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Blood pressure monitoring, cholesterol levels and prevention of cardiovascular risk factors thus become a priority.

  • Affecting the Respiratory System

The lungs can be affected in rheumatoid arthritis, causing complications such as pulmonary fibrosis, pleurisy or pneumonitis. These conditions can cause breathing difficulties and compromise the normal functioning of the lungs. Monitoring of respiratory function and periodic assessment of lung status are essential for early detection of these complications.

  • Affecting Blood Vessels

RA can affect blood vessels by causing vasculitis, an inflammation of the vessel wall. Vasculitis can affect various organs, including the skin, nerves, kidneys, and others. This complication can have serious consequences, and careful monitoring of the condition of the blood vessels is essential to prevent vascular complications.

  • Bone and Marrow Complications

Rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to bone loss and eventually osteoporosis. Weakened bones can increase the risk of fractures. Chronic inflammation can also affect the bone marrow, contributing to anemia or other hematological disorders. Bone density assessment and blood monitoring for abnormalities are necessary to prevent and manage these complications.

  • Eye Diseases

Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the eyes, leading to conditions such as Sjögren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder that affects the glands that produce tears and saliva) or scleritis (inflammation of the outer layer of the eye). Regular eye exams are essential for early detection and treatment of these problems.

Systemic complications

8. The Role of Physical Exercises

Regular exercise can play a crucial role in managing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. They can improve patients’ mobility, muscle strength and mood.

9.Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Certain complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, and yoga, can provide relief for rheumatoid arthritis. However, it is important to always talk to your doctor before trying such treatments.

10. Future Perspectives

Rheumatoid arthritis research is ongoing, and new therapies and approaches may bring hope for patients in the future. Involvement in clinical trials and maintaining open communication with the medical team can contribute to more effective disease management.


Rheumatoid Arthritis: causes, symptoms and treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as rheumatism, is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than the joints. In some people, the condition can damage the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.

An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system erroneously attacks its own body tissues. Unlike tear damage to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling, which can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.

While new types of medications have dramatically improved treatment options, severe rheumatoid arthritis can lead to physical disabilities.

As we age, joint problems become inevitable, but there are other causes that can lead to damage to the cartilage that covers the joints. And once the cartilage wears out, arthritis sets in.


  1. Causes
  2. Symptoms
  3. Treatment

What are the causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the synovium – the mucosa of the membranes that surround the joints, the inflammation that thickens the synovium can eventually destroy the cartilage and bone in the joint. The tendons and ligaments that shelter the joint weaken and tighten and gradually the joint loses its shape and alignment.

Risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Sex – women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Age – the disease can occur at any age, but most often begins between the ages of 40 and 60;
  • Hereditary factor – if a member of your family has rheumatoid arthritis, you may be at increased risk of developing the disease;
  • Smoking – this unhealthy habit increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, especially if you have a genetic predisposition to the development of the disease;
  • Obesity – overweight or obese people appear to be at a higher risk of developing the disease.


What are the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Being an autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system incorrectly attacks the body’s tissues. Unlike osteoarthritis, which involves damage to the cartilage around the joints, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints, causing painful inflammation that can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.

Usually, rheumatoid arthritis begins slowly, with minor symptoms coming and going on both sides of the body and progressing over a period of weeks or months. Symptoms vary from person to person and may differ from day to day. The main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are joint pain, swelling and joint stiffness. More general symptoms and inflammation in other parts of the body may also occur.

One of the first early signs of rheumatoid arthritis is often fatigue, which can occur before the onset of other symptoms for weeks or even months. Fatigue can set in and disappear just as easily, from one week to the next or even from one day to the next. Sometimes the state of fatigue is accompanied by a poor general condition or even depression.

Stiff joints in the morning
Joint stiffness felt in the morning is often an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis. If this stiffness lasts for a few minutes, it is usually a symptom of a form of arthritis that can worsen over time without proper treatment. People who feel stiff joints for several hours often have inflammatory arthritis.

Joint stiffness can occur at any time of the day, whether the person is active or not. Stiffness usually begins to be felt in the joints of the hands and appears slowly, although it is not excluded that it appears suddenly and affects several joints during one or two days.

Joint pain
Joint stiffness is often followed by joint tenderness or pain both during movement and at rest. This also affects both parts of the body equally. In the incipient cases of rheumatoid arthritis, the most common areas where pain occurs are the fingers and wrists, but also the knees, feet, ankles or shoulders.

Slight inflammation of the joints
At the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, a slight inflammation of the joints may occur, which makes the joints appear larger than normal. This swelling is usually associated with a feeling of warmth or burning in the joints. This symptom may persist from a few days to a few weeks and may increase in intensity over time. Subsequent symptoms may be felt in the same joints or in other joints.

In cases where the fever is accompanied by other symptoms, such as joint pain and joint inflammation, this may be an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis. It should be noted that a high fever, above 38 ° C, is most likely a sign of another form of illness or infection.

Numbness and tingling
Inflammation of the tendons can put pressure on the nerves. This can cause numbness, tingling or a burning sensation in the hands, a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. The joints of the hands or feet can also produce a distinctive noise (a squeak or a crack) when moving, as damaged cartilage rubs against the joints.

Decreased freedom of movement
Inflammation of the joints can cause the tendons and ligaments to become unstable or deformed. As the disease progresses, it may even lead to the patient’s inability to bend or straighten some joints. Although freedom of movement can also be affected by the pain felt, it is very important that the person in question follows their normal and gentle training.


What is the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Recent findings indicate that remission of symptoms is more likely when treatment begins earlier with potent drugs known as antirheumatic drugs that modify the disease. Your doctor may also refer you to a therapist who can teach you exercises to keep your joints flexible. The therapist may also suggest new ways to do daily tasks, which will be easier for the joints. For example, if your fingers are sore, you may want to lift an object using your forearms.

If medications fail to prevent or slow down joint damage, you and your doctor may consider surgery to repair the damaged joints. Surgery can help restore your ability to use your joint. It can also reduce pain and deformities.

Naturist treatment

In addition to the remedies mentioned above, there are some natural ingredients that can help reduce symptoms and increase mobility:

Boswellia – is a plant native to India, North Africa and the Middle East, being used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 5,000 years. This plant has a rich content of α and β-boswellic acids and has antirheumatic properties. The benefits include improving blood flow to the joints and restoring them.

Curcumin – used mainly in Ayurvedic medicine, it is considered a powerful antioxidant with therapeutic properties. The substance is extracted from the root of the plant Curcuma longa, also known as “Indian saffron”. The main benefit is the neutralization of excess free radicals, responsible for joint damage.

Devil’s Claw – The plant is native to South Africa and contains two active compounds, harpagoside and beta-sitosterol. Benefits include improving discomfort and improving joint mobility.

All four natural ingredients are found in a dietary supplement that helps the proper functioning of the osteoarticular system. Other benefits include reducing osteoarticular and muscle discomfort, supporting joint mobility, but also protecting cartilage, tendons, ligaments and bones.