20 May 2019
Autoimmune diseases cause your body’s immune system to mistakenly attack normal cells. In autoimmune arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), your immune system attacks the lining of your joints. This inflammation is not confined to the joints and can affect other body organs.
Symptoms vary greatly from person to person, as does the rate of progression. While there’s no cure for this long-term condition, a variety of treatments can help improve your quality of life.
Symptoms of autoimmune arthritis
Symptoms generally begin slowly and can come and go. Joint pain and inflammation affect both sides of the body equally, and can be marked by these signs and symptoms:
hard bumps of tissue (nodules) under the skin on your arms
reduced range of motion
eye inflammation, dry eyes, itchy eyes, eye discharge
chest pain when you breathe (pleurisy)
Your likelihood of developing autoimmune arthritis can be affected by certain risk factors. For instance, risk factors for RA include:
Your gender: Women develop RA at a higher rate than men.
Your age: RA can develop at any age, but most people begin to notice symptoms between the ages of 49 and 60 years.
Your family history: You’re at increased risk of having RA if other family members have it.
Smoking: Cigarette smoking can increase your chances of developing RA. Quitting can lower your risk.
Autoimmune diseases tend to share symptoms with other conditions, so diagnosis can be difficult, particularly in the early stages.
For example, there’s no one test that can specifically diagnose RA. Instead, diagnosis involves patient-reported symptoms, clinical examination, and medical tests, including:
rheumatoid factor (RF) test
anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody test
erythrocyte sedimentation rate and c-reactive protein
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