How RA Progresses

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Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause joint damage and significant health problems throughout the entire body. It can affect your senses by targeting the eyes, ears, mouth, and skin. RA can also damage organs like the lungs, liver, stomach, and kidneys. People with RA are also at a greater risk of developing mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Unlike osteoarthritis, which is caused by the wear and tear of joints, RA happens when the immune system malfunctions and attacks healthy cells in the body.

One of the first symptoms of RA is pain and swelling in the joints. It commonly starts out in smaller joints in the hands and toes, and spreads to larger ones like the wrists and knees. RA is typically symmetrical, targeting joints on both sides of the body. Rather than affecting one arm or leg, in most cases, symptoms will occur in both. Common symptoms include chronic pain, swelling, morning stiffness, fatigue, and fever.

Prolonged inflammation of the lining of the joints can cause damage to joint tissue. Over time, without early treatment, the tendons and ligaments that hold the joints together become damaged, which can lead to deformities.

While there is no cure for RA, there are many treatment options available to help ease symptoms, reduce inflammation, and prevent joint damage. Certain medicines, like biologics and JAK inhibitors, even go a step further to target the proteins in the inflammatory pathways.