The Link between Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Autoimmunity
What is RA or rheumatoid arthritis? Most of you know that it is a kind of inflammatory arthritis and it is also considered as an autoimmune disease. What is an autoimmune disease? It is a condition when your own immune system turns against you and starts to attack your body. As for RA, the immune system focuses their attack on the joints causing them to swell and inflame. With this as an initial sign, pain is always present. Another horrible thing about autoimmunity is that if the immune system gets confused it can attack other organs such as the heart, lungs, and heart. This is a rare condition but is totally disruptive.
In order to gain full understanding of RA you need to have a brief knowledge about autoimmunity or self immunity. Once your body is invaded by germs or viruses, you have your immune system to defend you. The immune system kills them and gets rids of them. However, if it does not function the right way it can work the other way around- harming instead of defending you. In this case your immune cells cannot recognize your own cells and consider them as invaders and then eventually attack them. This is how autoimmunity works.
Why does a person become autoimmune or what actually causes it? It is still a mystery why the immune system can go against the body. What is only known is the fact that autoimmune disease like RA cannot be acquired from other people. Scientists believe that the environment and genes are responsible for its presence. This implies that if you have a specific gene then you are most likely at risk for such disease. But you will not get it unless something in your environment triggers its occurrence including infection, drugs, pregnancy for some women, and even sunlight exposure.
What are the effects of autoimmunity? As mentioned before, it can harm your body in general. Typically, it can affect almost everything about you. The problem associated with the diseases depends on the organs involved or targeted. For example, if your liver is its target then you might be experiencing jaundice. Or if your skin is targeted then you will most likely have skin rashes or skin color changes. If your thyroid gland gets affected you may have changes in weight and sensitivity to cold and muscle aches occur. When your joints are affected they become stiff and painful and this leads to loss of movement on the affected area.
Apart from rheumatoid arthritis, there are other forms of auto immune diseases. These disease include systemic lupus erythematosus and ankylosing spondylitis. Other autoimmune diseases which affects the digestive tract includes Crohn’s disease, autoimmune hepatitis, Scleroderma, Ulcerative colitis, Primary biliary cirrhosis. Autoimmune diseases affecting the lungs include systemic lupus erythematosus, RA, Sclerodermam and Sarcoidosis. Autoimmune diseases also affect the skin. Disorders of the skin include Psoriasis, Sceroderma, Vitiligo, Systemic lupus erythmetaosus, Alopecia areata, and pemphigus.