Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a potentially terminal autoimmune disease where the body starts to destroy itself because the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints.
What follows is an inflammation that causes the tissue lining the insides of the joints, called the synovium to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joints.
This tissue lining is crucial because it creates a fluid that lubricates the joints and helps them move smoothly. Without it, the joints in the hands, feet, wrist, elbows, knees, and ankles will feel intense pain.
What’s worse, the pain in these joints is symmetrical. For example, if a joint in your left knee feels painful, the joint in your right knee will also feel sore.
Sadly, joint damage from rheumatoid arthritis is irreversible, so early diagnosis and aggressive treatments are recommended for rheumatoid arthritis patients. If not addressed, inflammation could result in cartilage loss, bone damage, and even painful joint deformities.
Meanwhile, the joints can become loose, unstable, and painful, and may even lose their mobility. These erosive changes typically occur fastest during the first year of having the disease.1
Over time, a certain level of disability can occur in 50 to 70 percent of people within five years after the onset of the disease, and about half of this number will stop working within 10 years. Even more devastating, rheumatoid arthritis can be fatal if not treated properly.
3 Possible Courses of Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the natural history of rheumatoid arthritis has three possible courses: 2
- Monocyclic: Have only one episode that ends within 2 to 5 years of initial diagnosis. This may result from early diagnosis or aggressive treatment.
- Polycyclic: The levels of disease activity fluctuate over the course of the condition.
- Progressive: RA continues to increase in severity and does not go away.”
The joints aren’t the only body parts that are affected by rheumatoid arthritis, as the disease can spread to your eyes, lungs, skin, and blood.Because RA is a systemic disease, it can also affect your cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
One of the organs that RA can negatively affect the most is the heart. The disease can contribute to a 60 percent increase of heart disease or stroke a year after a person is diagnosed with RA, compared to someone without the disease. This is because the pericardium, or the lining in the heart, is attacked.
Your Lifestyle Could Also Suffer Because of This Disease
Rheumatoid arthritis can significantly affect a person’s lifestyle, particularly at home and in the workplace. RA patients are more likely to switch occupations, lessen their work hours, be relieved from their jobs, retire earlier, or have difficulty searching for another job compared to those without RA.
Medications for rheumatoid arthritis are not easy on the wallet as well.
According to Healthline’s infographic entitled “Rheumatoid Arthritis by the Numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You,” 3 in the year 2000, a rheumatoid arthritis patient can spend as much as $5,763, and medication costs amount to $15,000 to $20,000 per patient treated with a biologic agent.