Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis. This form of arthritis is commonly classified as a chronic progressive disease. This means that the disease generally worsens as it progresses. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to produce cells that attack its own tissues. This results in inflammation that damages the joints and surrounding muscle. Rheumatoid arthritis can result in moderate discomfort to severe pain. People afflicted with this form of arthritis may find themselves incapable of completing everyday tasks such as preparing food, walking, combing their hair, dressing, or other chores.
Some people may experience the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis more dramatically than others. For some, the disease may regress or flare up throughout their life. Most people will experience periods where the symptoms of the disease are practically non-existent. Of course, these periods will be tempered by times where the disease flares up dramatically, many times exacerbated by certain environmental conditions.
Although just about anyone can develop rheumatoid arthritis, some individuals may be more susceptible than others. Roughly 2.1 million people in the United States are believed to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. About 1.5 million of all rheumatoid arthritis patients in the United States are women. Statistics tell us that women appear to be two to three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than the male population.
Although rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, and ages, some people appear to be more vulnerable to developing this disease. For instance, it appears that older people are more prone to developing rheumatoid arthritis. Most diagnoses occur between the ages of 35 to 50. However, there is a related form of the disease that affects young people. It is known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. However, rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of all ages, ranging from teenagers to the elderly.
According to some research studies, one group that appears particularly vulnerable is Native American populations. It is estimated that about five to six per cent of certain Native American populations suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. On a worldwide level, it is estimated that roughly one per cent of the world population suffers from some form of rheumatoid arthritis. The lowest rates of rheumatoid arthritis appear to occur in individuals of Caribbean backgrounds, mostly those of African descent.
There also appears to be a hereditary factor in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. For instance, studies show that roughly two to three per cent of those diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis report that someone in their family also suffer from the disease.
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, although newer therapies are providing patients with hope. In general, since it is a progressive autoimmune disease, many patients experience a worsening of symptoms as time goes on. The earliest that aggressive therapy is provided to the patient, the greater the chance that inflammation can be slowed or stopped. Early intervention is crucial for avoiding deformity or destruction of the joints or the surrounding areas.