What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your joints. Autoimmune diseases, as a whole, cause the body’s immune system to mistake its own tissues for foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses. At this point, the confused immune system develops antibodies that go out to search and destroy these so-called invaders; unfortunately, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, these invaders are your own synovial tissues.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes chronic swelling and pain. Notable symptoms include pain, fatigue and warm, swollen, reddish joints. Many sufferers deal with long periods of joint stiffness in the morning and inflammation in the small joints of the wrist and hand.
Facts about Rheumatoid Arthritis
- There are approximately 5 million Americans with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Nearly three times as many women have rheumatoid arthritis than men.
- Out of every 100,000 people, 41 are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis each year.
- Rheumatoid arthritis can affect individuals of any age: Women are generally diagnosed between 30 and 60 years of age; men are usually diagnosed later in life; but even children can be diagnosed with the juvenile form of the disease.
- The risk of a heart attack increases 60 percent one year after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
- People with rheumatoid arthritis are two times as likely to suffer from depression.
- Rheumatoid arthritis typically costs sufferers around $5,763 per year.
- Joints are not the only body part in danger; the lungs are often affected by rheumatoid arthritis resulting in interstitial lung disease or pulmonary fibrosis.
The Connection Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lung Disease
Rheumatoid arthritis-associated interstitial lung disease, or RA-ILD, is the most serious lung complication for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis. This disease occurs when lung tissue becomes inflamed and scarred, which results in difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
The inflammation resulting from RA-ILD can often lead to pulmonary fibrosis—the permanent scarring of respiratory tissues. Interstitial lung disease and pulmonary fibrosis are both progressive lung diseases that currently don’t have a cure. But just because these diseases are incurable does not mean they are untreatable.
Stem cell therapy has proven effective for treating both pulmonary conditions like pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung disease and chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Through stem cells innate healing properties and their ability to reduce inflammation, patients can get back to the life they once had.