In total, all forms of arthritis affects about 54 million Americans and arthritis is the most common cause of disability and also discharge from the military for medical reasons. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is 1 of 100 types of arthritis and affects about 3% of the U.S. population.
RA is an autoimmune disease which means the body's own immune system (which normally fights infections) starts to attack the joints and occasionally other parts of the body. It is not a disease of the old but starts most commonly in those between 35-50 of age although any age can be affected. RA is 8 times as common in women than in men which still means about 1 million men have RA in the U. S.
There is also a type of arthritis called JRA - for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis - that starts in childhood. So joint swelling and pain merits medical attention, regardless of your age, or that of your family members.
Symptoms include joint pain, joint swelling, stiffness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and dry eyes. Our goal as Rheumatologists is to sort out the type of arthritis affecting our patients, and different options for treatment in order to keep people functional both at work and at home.
Although RA is not yet curable there have been major advances in treatment over the last 20 years that have transformed the outlook for those suffering from RA. The key to successfully treating RA is diagnosing early. If joint pain and stiffness in the joints persist more than a few days then see your doctor who may recommend seeing a Rheumatologist.