“RA and other rheumatic diseases such as lupus can harm not only the musculoskeletal system but also any system in the body — eyes, skin, kidneys, lungs, and more. Sometimes people can be severely ill with multi-system involvement. And as a result, it can be quite challenging to determine how best to treat them.
“While the cause of RA is still not known, there is increasing understanding of the roles of genetics combined with environmental factors in its development. Research is actively investigating what causes the autoimmune response that attacks joints with inflammation. A major trigger that may start RA is a reaction against a bacteria, either in your mouth, especially in the gums, in the respiratory tract, or in the GI tract,” Dr. Starz says. “Hormones, cigarette smoking, and obesity are certainly factors, too. Pregnancy can be a trigger, as it was for Mrs. Froats.
“But,” he emphasizes, “to control RA and avoid permanent joint damage, patients need, first, the proper diagnosis as soon as possible to understand the extent and severity of the problems. Then, they need knowledgeable treatment that targets the specific abnormalities within the immune system.”