World Autoimmune Arthritis Day falls on May 20th every year. It was established by the International Foundation for Autoimmune Arthritis in 2012. The event hosts many nonprofits, advocates, and experts from around the world to provide education and awareness information to patients and the general public. The convention is held online, but it is very interactive. Each nonprofit gets a race car and makes their way around a “track”. The way to get more mileage points for your nonprofit of choice is to donate.
Some of you may be thinking, “I don’t have autoimmune arthritis”. Think again. The most common form of autoimmune arthritis is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) which effects over 200,000 people in the US each year. Let’s go over exactly what autoimmune arthritis is so that you can better understand yourself and others that suffer.
An autoimmune disease is when the body mistakenly attacks normal cells. In autoimmune arthritis, the immune system attacks the lining of the joints. This leads to inflammation that can affect the entire body. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.5 million adults in the US have RA. There are risk factors associated with RA. Women develop RA at a higher rate than men. Most people notice symptoms between the ages of 49 and 60. If RA is in your family, there is a higher chance of having RA. Smoking can also increase the chance of developing RA.
Symptoms may vary as the progression of the arthritis becomes more advanced. The most common are deformed joints, hard bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms, reduced range of motion, dry mouth, difficulty sleeping, weight loss, eye inflammation, fever, anemia, and chest pain when you breathe. There are multiple ways to be diagnosed, so if you suspect you have any of these symptoms, there are some options for you. These include a rheumatoid factor test, antibody test, x-ray, ultrasound, and MRI.
There are no cures for autoimmune arthritis, but there are many treatments. There are anti-inflammatory and antirheumatic drugs, corticosteroids, biologic agents, immunosuppresants, and TNG-alpha inhibitors. Physical therapy can also be a great way to reduce the pain in your joints. In extreme cases, surgery is considered and assistive devices like canes or crutches.
These are the warning signs for autoimmune arthritis, the most common form being RA. Remember to take care of yourself. Stay healthy and lose weight to keep pressure off of your joints. Be more aware of yourself and others during this Arthritis Awareness month!