Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a debilitating and excruciating chronic inflammatory disease of connective tissues causing joint stiffness, swelling and pain. A new study reveals that efforts in early treatment, diagnosis and increased awareness of the signs and symptoms of RA have contributed to the decrease of deaths from heart problems.

This is a serious autoimmune disease affecting 1.5 million Americans and commonly affects more women than men. This long-term disease can cause disability as the body attacks its own tissues especially in the joints of the hands and feet which may lead to premature death for it raises one's risk for cardiovascular disease.

In a new study, scientists revealed that efforts in the early diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid disease in the past years have paid off in preventing its complications. After analysing mortality rates among individuals diagnosed with RA, they found out that the death rate decreased by 2.8 percent and 7.9 percent in the group diagnosed from 2000 to 2007 and the group diagnosed from 1980s to 1990s, respectively.

Though it can occur at any age, most cases begin after age 40. The common signs include joint stiffness, swelling, pain, redness and warmth. These are typical hallmarks of inflammation.

The common parts of the body affected are the fingers, feet, wrists, elbows, ankles, and knees. However, it can also cause inflammation in the shoulders, hips and cervical spine. In severe cases, the body can attack the tissues in the heart, lungs, kidneys and skin.

Common symptoms including fever, fatigue, weakness and generalized pain. In the first weeks and months of the disease, gradual pain and swelling may occur in the joints of the body. As the disease progresses, joint pains may become more intense including flare up periods that can cause serious damage to joints.

Treatment options are available to prevent flare ups and inflammation of joints but up to date, RA is still an incurable disease. Medications can be taken to relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Supportive treatments like occupational therapy and surgery to correct problems in the joints may also be helpful.

Medications like anti-inflammatory drugs can help prevent the occurrence of flare ups for longer periods reducing the risk of permanent disability and inability to perform daily activities.

RA and other arthritis conditions are the most common causes of disability around the world. Early detection can provide a lot of help in starting treatment and prevent the progression of severe complications that could prevent premature death from heart problems.

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