6 Myths About Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Patient Expert

Myth: RA symptoms occur due to natural ‘wear and tear’ on the joint.

Fact: When people think of the “wear and tear” that causes arthritis, they are actually referring to osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system attacks the joints and other tissues, and can even harm organs. Joint destruction and bone erosion occur rapidly with RA, and halting or slowing down this erosion is key to treatment.

Researchers are still discovering new information about the process of bone loss in RA. A recent study at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany looked at antibodies in certain RA patients that target a specific kind of protein, citrullinated proteins, and are linked to an increased risk of bone destruction. The study, using mice, found that infusion of these antibodies which recognize the citrullinated proteins actually activated osteoclasts, cells that break down and absorb bone tissue into the body. This provides evidence of a direct link between the antibodies recognizing citrullinated proteins and bone erosion.

Myth: Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms only affect old people.

Fact: Rheumatoid Arthritis can occur at any age; however, onset typically occurs between 30 and 50 years. Children can also have rheumatoid arthritis, which is called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, but this type can go into remission before adulthood.

Older people with arthritis usually have osteoarthritis, which is a part of aging. As the cartilage cells age, they can no longer repair and produce more cartilage.

Myth: Joints affected by RA will be appear red.

Fact: Redness of the affected joints is not a symptom of RA. Gout and septic arthritis, however, can result in redness. With RA, there can be symmetric joint swelling on both sides of the body, although this isn’t always the case. It’s likely to be rheumatoid arthritis If there are other tell-tale signs present, such as morning stiffness lasting at least an hour, three or more joint areas affected, particularly with hand joints, development of nodules, a positive RF factor or radiographic changes. .

Myth: RA affects only the joints.

Fact: The inflammation that comes with RA can affect the entire body, including organs. Flu-like symptoms and fatigue also are common symptoms.

Myth: An RA diagnosis can only be made with a positive rheumatoid factor.

Fact: One way to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis is a blood test that looks at rheumatoid factors. These are antibodies that can be associated with inflammation. Many conditions are associated with positive rheumatoid factors, including viral illnesses, tuberculosis and Sjogren’s syndrome. Patients can have rheumatoid arthritis and not be rheumatoid factor positive. This is called seronegative RA. RA patients who are rheumatoid factor positive have a greater risk of aggressive RA.

Myth: You can wait to treat your RA symptoms.

Fact: Early aggressive treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is necessary to halt or slow joint destruction, and to prevent permanent damage. There are powerful drugs available to block swelling, inflammation and associated pain. New advances in medicine, treatment protocol and other therapies have changed the prognosis for people living with RA, so it is not as severely disabling as it was 25 or even 10 years ago.