Rheumatoid arthritis in women is a challenging issue. As well we know that this systemic joint disorder is more common in women than men. But for anyone with it, the key is to start the treatment immediately. So early diagnosis, when the disease hasn’t become advanced, is important. The earlier you’re diagnosed, the sooner treatment you can start. The next question, are there any early signs of this autoimmune disorder?
Rheumatoid arthritis, also called ‘RA’, is a chronic inflammatory joint disease associated with the abnormality of the body immune system. In general, it is more difficult treat than osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.
It can affect anyone, but interestingly women are 2-3 times higher risk for the condition. Furthermore while RA is often diagnosed later in life – many women can have the condition earlier in life, between the ages of 25 and 42 years old.
RA hurts the joints because the body immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of soft membranes covering the joints called synovium. At first it will cause inflammation of synovium. Over time, it can eventually damage other parts of the joint such as cartilage and bone.
The effect of this autoimmune disease can be systemic. This means it can also affect more than just the joints – in some cases, it can affect other parts of the body that have nothing to do with your joints such as lungs, blood vessels, heart, eyes, and skin.
Pregnancy hormones may have an effect on the remission of RA. Remission is not a cure, but the disease goes away for a while. The disease usually returns after delivery.
The good news, women with RA can still have normal pregnancy and deliver healthy babies. But it’s important to make sure that the disease is well controlled before pregnant. See more about rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy in here!
According to a journal released in Rheumatology found, breastfeeding may help reduce the risk of RA. It’s also thought that the longer your breastfeed, the lower your risk.
Unfortunately, the link between breastfeeding and RA is not fully known. Although your breastfeeding may help reduce the risk, it still remains puzzling whether it can establish a cause-and-effect connection.
Normally, menopause occurs after the age of 50. But some women can have it earlier, before 40.
Going through early menopause may put you at high risk of RA and worsen RA complications (such as heart disease). This also increases the risk of osteoporosis.
However your gender is one of many factors that contribute to increase the risk. The following are other risk factors of RA:
- The condition is usually diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60, though it can affect people of all ages.
- Sometimes it runs in families. Having a family history of RA can increase your risk.
- Cigarette smoking, this is particularly true for people with a genetic predisposition for developing RA.
- Excess pounds of weight you gain may also have an effect.
- Environmental factors, such as exposure to silica or asbestos.
RA is a chronic, progressive condition with periods of flares (increased disease activity) and remission. In women, early signs of the disease can be vogue. They may also vary from woman to woman, making it more difficult to diagnose the disease early.
For example, it usually begins with symptoms that have nothing to do with the joints. These include fatigue (tiredness), fever, or changes in appetite (appetite loss). These symptoms are not only associated with RA – they can be caused by something else.
So the diagnosis doesn’t only rely on the symptoms that you’re experiencing. Some tests are usually required. In general, the procedures and tests to diagnose RA are as follows:
- Physical exam to see whether you have classic symptoms of arthritis such as joint redness, tenderness, stiffness, warmth, and swelling. But many times these symptoms don’t appear in people with early stage of the disease.
- Blood tests. RA is characterized by the elevated levels of ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) and CRP (C-reactive protein), though not always. Sometimes your doctor may also need to check your anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide) antibodies.
- Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, and ultrasound tests.
Since early treatment can affect the outcome of the disease, see a doctor promptly if you have the following conditions: