Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis – Are You Susceptible?

Rheumatoid Arthritis word association cloudThere are many different types of arthritis out there, but one of the most common types is rheumatoid arthritis.

Each year, there are more than 200,000 cases of rheumatoid arthritis in the United States. This common condition is treatable, but it is not curable.

Wondering if you might be at risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis? Read on to learn more about this condition and find out if you might be susceptible to it.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis, often referred to as RA,  is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation, often impacting joints throughout the body. It can influence a number of other body systems as well, including the skin, eyes, lungs and circulatory system.

Unlike osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear on the body, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by your immune system mistakenly attacking the tissue within your body. It is a chronic condition that can be treated, but currently cannot be cured.

What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Since rheumatoid arthritis can impact so many areas of the body, signs and symptoms can vary with each case. In many cases, rheumatoid arthritis manifests itself with many of the same symptoms as other common types of arthritis.

Some of the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Aching joints
  • Swollen, warm or tender joints
  • Stiff joints, especially in the morning or after being stationary for a period of time
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis typically impact smaller joints first, often starting in the joints of the hands and feet. As the disorder progresses, signs and symptoms can spread to other parts of the body, including larger joints like wrists, ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders and hips.

Interestingly, symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can vary in terms of severity and may come and go. Those suffering from this autoimmune disorder may have flare ups and then experience periods of relative remission, where symptoms disappear.

Are You At Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Because it is an autoimmune disorder, some of the risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis different than those associated with other types of arthritis. If you fall into any of the following categories, you may be at higher risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis.

You are a woman

Women tend to be more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis. Statistics have shown that approximately three times as many women as men are affected by RA.

You are between the ages of 40 and 60

RA can develop in younger individuals, and sometimes even impacts children. However, most people who are impacted by rheumatoid arthritis are between the ages of 40 and 60.

You have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis

Individuals with family members who suffer from RA may be at a higher risk of being impacted by it themselves.

You are a smoker

Smoking has been shown to increase the chances that an individual will develop RA, especially if you have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis or if you are otherwise genetically predisposed to the condition. Smokers also tend to develop more severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis.

You are overweight

Obesity has been shown to have an impact on the development of RA as well. Being overweight puts individuals at a higher risk of being impacted by the disorder.

You have been exposed to certain environmental hazards

Many questions still exist about the impact that environmental factors may have on RA, and studies are ongoing. However, it has been shown that exposure to substances, like asbestos or silica, may heighten an individual’s chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis. If you have other risk factors for RA, exposure to these hazards in your environment could trigger the onset of the condition.

What To Do If You Think You’re Experiencing Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause discomfort and, over time, it can cause serious bone and joint damage. It can also put you at higher risk for other conditions, including Osteoporosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, heart problems, certain cancers, and more.

Though it cannot be cured, there are effective treatments out there that can treat and slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Early detection is key!

If you are experiencing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, make an appointment with your doctor so you can be diagnosed and get a treatment in place in order to manage the autoimmune disorder.

RA can often be treated with self care, medication and therapies, especially in its early stages. For more severe rheumatoid arthritis, there are medical procedures and surgeries available to help you manage the effects of the disease.

Looking for a hand surgeon in the Glens Falls NY area who can help with your RA? Turn to Dr. Garcia at Garcia Plastic & Hand Surgery.

The team at Garcia Plastic & Hand Surgery offers top level arthritis treatment options and surgical procedures so you can get back to living your life without the pain and discomfort that comes with many types of arthritis, including RA. Dr. Garcia can refer you to a Rheumatologist (if you don’t have one already) for help with managing your arthritis, and can work with you to treat complications that may arise as a result of RA, through carpal tunnel release, joint repair, joint replacement and more.

With decades of experience treating hand and wrist conditions, Dr. Garcia is the area’s expert when it comes to arthritis. Get to know Dr. Garcia and schedule a consultation with him here, or give us a call at 518-793-0475 to take the first step towards managing your rheumatoid arthritis.

Interested in learning about other hand and wrist conditions? You can find more information about other conditions we treat, including carpal tunnel, trigger finger, tennis elbow and more here.