Rheumatoid arthritis affects the body in many ways. This disorder involves much more than simply arthritis.
Is RA a disease of “old people”?
No, rheumatoid arthritis is quite common in young men and women. The mean age of development of rheumatoid arthritis is somewhere around the age of 50.
Is this a lifelong disease?
Since the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, a cure is not yet possible. For this reason, it is a lifelong disease. RA is, however, a very treatable illness. In fact, an increasing number of new therapies are currently being developed for the treatment of this illness. It pays, therefore, to do everything in your power early on to stop the progression of the illness.
Might the joints in my neck he affected?
RA of the thoracic spine (chest) and the lumbar spine (the lower back) is very rare and is usually associated with another illness. However, the spine in the neck area can be greatly affected. Early on, the neck can get very stiff and even lose some range of motion.
What about my shoulders?
Loss of motion of the shoulders is a common finding in RA patients. In fact, the shoulders can become frozen in place. The pain is worse at night when you are sleeping because the movements during sleep stretch the tightened joint capsule. This capsule gets really tight when there is extra fluid in the shoulder joint, which is not always obvious to the doctor.
How are the elbows affected?
Inflammation in the elbows is easily detected. Because a number of nerves pass through the elbow, a variety of confusing symptoms develops, including weakness of the pinky finger and numbness of the fourth and fifth fingers. Moreover, as the disease worsens, the elbow can become immobile and stay in a flexed or bent position until properly treated.