Who's at Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis affects approximately 1-2 million Americans, less 1% of the population. Anyone can develop rheumatoid arthritis at any time. However, there are certain factors that may put you at a greater risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Women are approximately two to three times more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis. Women with rheumatoid arthritis tend to experience alleviated symptoms around the fourth month of pregnancy. They also usually experience a flare up two to eight weeks after the birth of the baby. Women with rheumatoid arthritis also have a higher risk of miscarriage, birth defects, premature birth, and complications during pregnancy. Although men are less likely that women to develop rheumatoid arthritis, their symptoms tend to be more severe.
Although children and young people can develop rheumatoid arthritis, it is most common between the ages of forty and sixty.
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of arthritis in children under the age of 16. In many cases, symptoms become less severe or disappear altogether as the child ages.
- Elderly people can also develop rheumatoid arthritis.
- People who have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis may be more likely to develop it.
There is a genetic marker for predisposition to rheumatoid arthritis that can be identified. This marker does not guarantee that a person will get rheumatoid arthritis, and people without the genetic marker may develop the condition. About 30% of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers have the genetic marker, while only 17% of the general population carries it.
Smoking can greatly increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. If you smoke, you should quit, especially if you have other risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis.
Although rheumatoid arthritis is not fully understood, it is known that rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the body's white blood cells, which are normally used to destroy bacteria and viruses, cease to be able to distinguish between foreign bodies and the body's own cells. In rheumatoid arthritis, the white blood cells begin to attack the lining of the joints. Over time, the lining thickens and the joint becomes inflamed and painful. Eventually, rheumatoid arthritis can be crippling and disfiguring.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis; nor is there a single treatment plan that will work for all rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. Treatment usually focuses on reducing pain and inflammation and preventing further damage. Therapies may include prescription and non-prescription drugs and surgery. If you are interested in natural care, ask your health practitioner. Exercise, diet, joint protection, using assistive devices, and applying heat or cold may all alleviate your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Talk to your health practitioner to see what might be right for you.
Eating a healthy diet, protecting your joints, and getting enough exercise are all good ways to protect yourself from getting rheumatoid arthritis as well as improving your general health.