How Rheumatoid Arthritis Is An Autoimmune Disease? Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory, autoimmune disease, meaning it happens due to immune system white cells attacking the healthy cells within the body.
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How Rheumatoid Arthritis Is An Autoimmune Disease – All You Need To Know About Autoimmune Disease
Each autoimmune disease mistakes one specific class of cell or tissue as a threat and begins attacking them. In the case of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the immune system attacks the protective tissues lining the joints. The tissue is responsible for keeping the joint movement smooth and painless.
Over time, as the immune system eats away this tissue, the bones within the joints become exposed and lack the levels of lubrication needed to move effortlessly and without pain.
The resulting pain causes the surrounding layer of cells called synovium to become inflamed and sore. This thin layer releases excessive lubricating fluid to compensate for the loss of tissue. However, the excess fluid causes further inflammation around the joints and damages the nearby bones, tendons, and ligaments.
Over time, the condition becomes severe, leading to joint deformity and bone erosion. The tendons can become stretched and weak while the ligaments lose their proper alignment. This results in a deformed joint that may appear rounder and bigger than normal. If not treated, the damage continues to accumulate more synovial fluid, leading to the complete breakdown of the affected joints.
What Are Autoimmune Diseases?
An autoimmune disease is a rare condition where the body’s immune system begins to attack the body’s healthy and essential cells, tissues, or specific organs. It happens when the immune system mistakes a healthy cell within the body as a foreign threat that must be removed.
As a response, our immune system can create antibodies that attack these cells, which are necessary for maintaining the healthy performance of various functions. There are nearly eighty different types of autoimmune diseases that come with their own unique implications.
The two subtypes of autoimmune disease include organ-specific and systemic cases. As the name suggests, the organ-specific autoimmune disease attacks a specific antigen within a specific organ. In such a case, the disease only causes dysfunction and complications within the cell or tissue-related functions of the affected organ.
On the other hand, systemic autoimmune disease mistakes an entire class of cells or tissues as a foreign threat and attacks wherever they are present. This leads to problems in multiple organs and functions of the body.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease as it attacks the protective tissues within the joints rather than the joints themselves. Common symptoms of systemic autoimmune disease include inflammation, fatigue, and consistent fever. These are also present in rheumatoid arthritis along with other specific symptoms.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is the most frequent type of Autoimmune disease, affecting more than 1.2 million women in the U.S alone. The condition is more common in women than men due to the link between the immune system and estrogen hormone receptors.
One study found that more than 75 percent of cases of Rheumatoid and 80 percent of autoimmune diseases affect women.
Rheumatoid Arthritis can manifest differently in each patient, which is a typical characteristic of most autoimmune diseases. The symptoms may be mild in some people but severe in others; however, the condition is highly manageable in most cases.
How The Immune System Works?
The immune system is responsible for carrying out surveillance activities throughout the body. This surveillance detects any disorders, dysfunction, or foreign presence within the body.
These dysfunctions or foreign presence are scientifically known as antigens – chemicals or biological products such as dangerous toxins, infectious bacteria, or viruses. The surveillance is conducted by a specific type of white blood cell known as lymphocytes.
After detection of an antigen, these white blood cells begin to attack it either directly or by producing antibodies that can kill it over time. To keep up with the body’s extensive surveillance and antigen-fighting needs, the immune system produces a diverse range of these white blood cells.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The entire mechanism of surveillance, detection, and defense is what gives rise to autoimmune diseases. With a diverse range of antigen-fighting cells, some rare instances of failure occur in one of these fighting cells that cause it to attack healthy cells within the body.
This happens due to misinformation within the lymphocytes (antigen-fighting cells). Every Lymphocyte has an initial imprint that “whitelists” all the healthy, naturally-occurring cells within the body. In some cases, this ability to differentiate between the healthy and dangerous cells is hindered, leading the lymphocytes to attack a particular class of cells and tissues. This is what happens to the joint tissues in Rheumatoid Arthritis, the lymphocytes attack the tissues repeatedly, leading to severe depletion of protective lining over time.
While the root cause of such failure is still unknown, some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to the disease.
Early Detection of Rheumatoid Arthritis is difficult due to the subtle changes, overlapping of symptoms with other diseases, and simply mistaking the pain for a sign of aging. Many women report that they did not suspect.
Rheumatoid Arthritis as their symptoms were mild and also occur commonly with general exhaustion or strain. If the presence of the condition is suspected, doctors usually conduct the following tests:
Individuals suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis show increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate(ESR). Erythrocytes are red blood cells and play an essential role in the diagnosis.
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When affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis, these red blood cells clump together and become more separable from other blood cells. ESR test assesses how easily the red blood cells separate when reacting to a specific substance in the lab.
A high ESR confirms the presence of inflammation and, therefore, a high possibility of the condition as well. However, this is not a definitive diagnosis and must be accompanied by multiple other tests, including a physical examination, X-rays and MRI scans. This is because other chronic conditions, injuries, or infections can also cause elevated ESR levels.
Other tests are also conducted to rule out the possibility of any other disease which may be causing the problems. These tests may include the C-reactive protein (CRP) test, Full blood count (CBC) test, and Rheumatoid factor test.
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