Rheumatoid Arthritis


Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease of the joints and other systems in the body.

With Rheumatoid Arthritis a person’s immune system attacks the healthy tissue in their joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that is not only confined to the joints – it can also cause medical conditions related to other systems such as the heart, lungs, eyes, blood vessels, nerves, and skin.

Genetic factors can make individuals more susceptible to developing rheumatoid arthritis in response to environmental factors and other triggers such as viruses or bacteria.

Rheumatoid arthritis differs from osteoarthritis in that it affects the joint linings resulting in painful swollen joints with bone erosion, deformity of the joints and even various disabilities. Osteoarthritis is usually due to wear and tear.

In the early stages of the disease the smaller joints of the hands and feet are affected but as the disease progresses it can affect the hips, knees, elbows, shoulders and ankles.

When someone has rheumatoid arthritis, the inflammatory impact is what causes damage to other systems and organs in the body so if the inflammation can be managed the impact on the rest of the body can be curtailed.

Symptoms related to rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Warm, tender, and swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness that is worse after inactivity or in the morning on waking
  • Joint deformity
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Dry mouth

Factors that increase an individual’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Family history – if other family members have rheumatoid arthritis or another autoimmune disease it increases the risk
  • Gender – as with most other autoimmune diseases, women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men
  • Age – signs and symptoms usually start to occur around middle age
  • Being overweight – obesity is inflammatory in itself so being overweight can increase the risk for individuals who are genetically susceptible
  • Smoking – cigarette smoking increases oxidative stress and can cause more severe symptoms to those with rheumatoid arthritis.

Those who suffer with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher risk of developing other conditions such as osteoporosis, swollen nodules around joints and pressure points in the body, dry eyes, and mouth, decreased immunity, unhealthy fat to muscle ratio, heart and lung disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, and lymphoma.

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can vary in severity and an individual may have times where they are relatively pain free with other times where the pain is severe.

To reduce chronic inflammation, it’s important to manage your stress and follow healthy lifestyle.

Some foods that have anti-inflammatory properties include:

  • Broccoli – contains sulphoraphane and phytonutrients which detoxify the body and reduce inflammation
  • Blue berries – rich in antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress and inflammation
  • Olive Oil – great as part of a balanced diet to turn off genes that cause inflammation
  • Omega 3 fatty acids – found in oily fish or supplements. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory, whereas Omega 6 can be pro-inflammatory
  • Tart cherries – high in vitamin C and have anti-inflammatory properties
  • Green Tea – the flavonoids in green tea reduce inflammation
  • Nuts – good sources of magnesium, healthy fats, and fiber which is important to modulate inflammatory signals

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 9 December 2021 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am