Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the immune system. It is primarily characterized by chronic inflammation of the joints, and other organs and tissues. This article will tell you about the symptoms, risks, and causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain, inflammation, and damage to other body parts, such as the heart and lungs. It is the most common type of arthritis [1].

Rheumatoid Arthritis is characterized by joint damage that occurs on both sides of the body in most cases.

For people who have one of their arms or legs affected, it is likely that the same joint in their other arm or leg also affects. People with Rheumatoid Arthritis are often diagnosed with biomarkers, which are small changes in the body that can help doctors tell them apart from other types of arthritis, like osteoarthritis (OA) [1]. This article will help you understand its symptoms and causes.

Types of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis can manifest itself in a number of different ways. Knowing what type of cancer you have may help your healthcare provider determine the most appropriate course of action for you.

Rheumatoid Arthritis can manifest itself in a variety of ways.

  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
    • It is referred to as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) when it occurs in children under 17 who have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Formerly known as juvenile RA, this condition is now known as lupus (JRA). There are many similarities between the symptoms of other types of RA. Still, there is also the possibility of inflammation of the eyes and problems with physical development in some cases [2].
  • Seropositive RA
    • Rheumatoid factor or anti-CCP blood tests are positive if you have a rheumatoid factor or anti-CCP in your system. This means you have antibodies that are making your body attack your joints, which is a bad thing to have [3].
  • Seronegative RA
    • It’s possible that you have Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis, which means that you have a negative blood test for RF and a negative blood test for anti-CCP. However, you may still have symptoms of RA, like pain and swelling. It is possible that you will develop antibodies and that your condition will be reclassified as Seropositive Rheumatoid Arthritis [3].

Symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis

rheumatoid arthritis

RA is a chronic disease characterized by inflammation and pain in the joints. Flares or exacerbations are characterized by the severity of these symptoms and signs becoming increasingly severe. Other times are referred to as remission periods, in which symptoms may completely subside or even disappear altogether.

It’s important to note that while Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms are most commonly associated with the hands, wrists, and knees, they can manifest themselves in any tissue or organ in the body, including the lungs, heart, and eyes [4].

Among the symptoms that may be experienced are the following [4,5]:

  • Weakness
  • Aching or pain in joints
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of joint function and deformities
  • Stiffness in joints
  • The identical joint symptoms
  • Tenderness and swelling in joints

The severity of the symptoms varies from person to person. No matter how frequently your symptoms appear and disappear, it is critical not to ignore them. The ability to recognize the early signs of RA will assist you and your healthcare provider in treating and managing the condition more effectively.

Seropositive Rheumatoid Arthritis

The most common type of Rheumatoid Arthritis is seropositive RA, which is also the most severe. This type of arthritis may be hereditary. Patients with seropositive RA may experience more severe symptoms than those with seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis [6].

Symptoms of seropositive Rheumatoid Arthritis include the following:

  • Weight loss
  • Rheumatoid nodules
  • Pain and swelling in symmetrical joints
  • Pain and swelling in various joints
  • Stiffness in the morning that lasts 30 minutes or longer
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Rheumatoid Arthritis does not always manifest itself as joint pain. The eyes, skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, nerves, salivary glands, and blood vessels may inflate certain individuals with seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Causes and Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis

rheumatoid arthritis

A variety of genetic and environmental factors may contribute to an increased risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis, including a family history of the disease.


RA is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system attacks healthy body tissues. The precise causes or triggers of Rheumatoid Arthritis, on the other hand, remain a mystery [7].

Those who have RA will notice that their immune system sends antibodies to the lining of their joints as part of the disease process. They attack joint tissues, causing the lining cells (synovial cells) to divide and thus contribute to the inflammatory response. The chemical reactions that occur during this process can cause damage to nearby bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments because of the release of these chemicals [8].

If Rheumatoid Arthritis is not treated, the joint will deteriorate and lose its shape and alignment, eventually resulting in the joint’s degeneration and eventual destruction.

Risk Factors

  • Age
    • Adults in their 50s are at the highest risk of developing RA. For those born males, the risk continues to increase with age [9]. RA is frequently diagnosed in women who were assigned female at birth and during their childbearing years.
  • Diet
    • Consumption of sodium, sugar (particularly fructose), red meat, and iron has been linked to an increased risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis [10].
  • Obesity
    • Obesity can increase the risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis [11].
  • Smoking
    • Cigarette smokers are at an increased risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis, according to studies [11].
  • Early Life Exposure
    • Children whose mothers smoked have a twofold increased risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis as adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [12].
  • Genetics
    • Individuals born with certain genes, referred to as HLA class II genotype, are predisposed to develop RA. The risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis may be increased in individuals carrying these genes who are obese or exposed to environmental factors such as smoking [11].
  • Sex
    • At birth, females are two to three times more likely to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis than males [11].
  • History of Live Births
    • Individuals with ovaries who have never given birth may be more susceptible to developing Rheumatoid Arthritis than those who have given birth [12].

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Hereditary?

Although Rheumatoid Arthritis is not a hereditary disease, it does appear to be passed down through some families. A variety of factors, including genetics and the environment, could contribute to this condition [13].

You should consult your health care provider if you or a family member suffers from or had RA, and especially if you are experiencing long-term joint pain, swelling, and stiffness that is not caused by overuse or trauma.

An increased risk for developing the disease is increased if you have a family history of it, and early detection can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of treatment [13].

Rheumatoid Arthritis Complications

rheumatoid arthritis

You are more likely to develop additional health complications if you have Rheumatoid Arthritis [14]. A small number of people may also experience complications due to the medications used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis [15].

  • Chest Pain
    • Inflammation of the tissues surrounding the heart, also known as pericarditis, is a medical condition that causes chest pain.
  • Premature Heart Disease
    • Individuals who have Rheumatoid Arthritis are nearly twice as likely as those who do not have the disease to develop heart disease [16]. Patients suffering from obesity and Rheumatoid Arthritis are at the greatest risk [17]. People with RA are more likely to die from coronary artery disease than the general population [15].
  • Subcutaneous Nodules
    • Lesions that are located deep within the dermis and subcutis layers of the skin are referred to as deep dermal lesions. RA is present in 30 to 40% of patients, and they are associated with more severe manifestations of the condition [15].
  • Pancytopenia
    • Pancytopenia is a condition in which a person’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are not enough to support their body. There are three types of blood disorders caused by this virus: anemia, leukopenia, and thrombocytopenia. A relationship exists between the severity of anemia and the severity of RA [15].
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
    • Patients with RA are more likely to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome than the general population. It causes aches and pains in the hands and fingers and numbness and tingling. The compression of the median nerve in the hand is the cause of this condition.
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage
    • GI hemorrhage is a medical condition with significant bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract (intestinal tract). Patients with RA are more likely than the general population to develop this gastrointestinal complication, which is associated with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) [15].
  • Renal Failure
    • When it comes to people with RA, renal failure is the third leading cause of death [15]. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is associated with a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) and glomerulonephritis than the general population [18].
  • Pneumonia
    • Patients with RA are more likely to contract a respiratory infection such as pneumonia than the general population [15].
  • Interstitial Lung Disease
    • RA-associated interstitial lung disease (ILD) is the primary pulmonary manifestation of the disease, and it can develop as a result of the inflammatory response in the lung.
  • Cervical Myelopathy
    • If you have RA, you have a higher risk of developing cervical myelopathy. The spinal cord compression in the neck is the cause of this condition. When this happens, it results in a dislocated joint at the top of the spinal cord, which impairs mobility and causes permanent spinal cord damage [19].
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis
    • Inflammation and stiffness of the airways in the lungs are caused by pulmonary fibrosis, which makes breathing more difficult. It is another painful lung condition that can occur due to RA and is caused by inflammation of the lung lining. Pleurisy can be extremely painful (pleura) [15].
  • Joint Damage
    • If Rheumatoid Arthritis is not managed or treated properly, it can result in permanent joint damage over time. When a joint is badly deformed, it can cause severe damage to the tendons, bones, and cartilage surrounding it. In some cases, surgery is required to prevent the loss of joint function from occurring.
  • Vasculitis
    • Vasculitis, also known as inflammation of the blood vessels, can cause vessels to thicken, weaken, narrow, and scar due to the swelling and inflammation. It can cause blood flow to your body’s organs to become impeded, and in severe cases, it can be fatal.
  • Eye Conditions
    • Rheumatoid Arthritis can cause eye inflammation, which can manifest as uveitis, and scleritis and manifest as redness and pain in the eyes. Additionally, it can result in Sjögren’s syndrome, which is characterized by chronic dryness of the eyes.
  • Lymphoma
    • A higher risk of developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL) and non-lymphoma Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is associated with individuals who have Rheumatoid arthritis (NHL) [20].

The Bottomline

RA is a chronic disease for which there is no known cure at present. Having said that, the vast majority of people who have RA do not have constant symptoms of the disease. Instead, they experience flare-ups that are followed by periods of relatively symptom-free time, which are referred to as remissions.

Disease progression is unique to each individual, and symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the individual.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.


  • Dr Faisal Rasheed, M.D.

    Dr Faisal is a certified Medical Doctor currently carrying the role of a Senior Medical Officer in the Orthopaedic Surgery Department of his local hospital. With his vast experience and knowledge in the medical field, Dr Faisal is well-equipped to share educational content that helps readers improve their health and wellness. During his hospital shifts, he diligently cares for and treats patients under him. And during his spare time, he enjoys crafting health and wellness content that inspires readers to make positive changes. LinkedIn


Dr Faisal is a certified Medical Doctor currently carrying the role of a Senior Medical Officer in the Orthopaedic Surgery Department of his local hospital. With his vast experience and knowledge in the medical field, Dr Faisal is well-equipped to share educational content that helps readers improve their health and wellness. During his hospital shifts, he diligently cares for and treats patients under him. And during his spare time, he enjoys crafting health and wellness content that inspires readers to make positive changes. LinkedIn