Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease characterised by an inflammation of the synovial joints leading to joint and periarticular tissue destruction, as well as a wide variety of extra-articular features.
the important signs and symptoms to be aware of are:
- pain, swelling and possibly redness around your joints. Hands and feet are often affected first, though RA can start in any joint
- stiffness in your joints when you get up in the morning or after sitting for a while, which lasts for more than 30 minutes and has no other obvious cause
- fatigue that’s more than just normal tiredness
- we don’t yet know exactly what causes RA itself. What we do know is that there are two elements involved: genetics and environmental factors.
- Genetics are involved even if you don’t have anyone in your family with RA.
- An environmental trigger can be a virus, infection, trauma of some kind, or having a very stressful episode in your life such as bereavement, divorce or childbirth. There are many theories about triggers but nothing’s been conclusively identified.
- We know that smoking makes RA more likely. A combination of smoking and having certain genes increases the risk of developing RA considerably, and the disease is more aggressive if it does occur. So if you do smoke, this is another good reason to give up.