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inflammatory markers in blood

Chronic Inflammation: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Lots of us have come to accept aches and pains as a normal part of growing older, but for sufferers of arthritis, these pains can be much more severe. In the UK, around 1% of the population is affected by rheumatoid arthritis, which is a type of chronic inflammation that can cause pain, swelling and potential serious damage to joints. 

Read on for more information on inflammation and arthritis, and learn more about identifying and living with rheumatoid arthritis.


What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term autoimmune condition that causes swelling, pain and stiffness in the joints. It usually affects the wrists, hands and feet, and is caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissue and causing chronic inflammation. If rheumatoid arthritis is left untreated, it can cause severe damage and potential destruction to a joint. 

What’s the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between joints wears down, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Although ‘arthritis’ means inflammation of a joint, the causes between the two arthritis conditions are different. 

Osteoarthritis is typically caused by ‘wear and tear’ of the joints, and as such most commonly affects older people. Rheumatoid arthritis is more rare, and is known as a ‘systemic inflammatory condition’ that affects the entire body. While osteoarthritis typically begins in a single joint, rheumatoid arthritis often manifests symmetrically – for example affecting both ankles or both wrists.

Inflammation (CRP) test kit components

Is there a test for arthritis?

While rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult to diagnose, you can easily test your levels of inflammation at home. Raised levels of CRP (C-reactive protein) can indicate significant inflammation, which is a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. 

YorkTest’s Inflammation (CRP) Test measures the levels of CRP in your blood. The simple at-home test is analysed and sent back to you with hospital-grade, easy to understand results – so you know how to take control of your health.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

If you suffer from aches and pains, you might have found yourself wondering ‘what does arthritis feel like?’. These are the most common rheumatoid arthritis symptoms:

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Joint pain

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Numbness and tingling

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Slight fever

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Weight loss

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

Although we know that rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy tissue rather than foreign bacteria, it’s not currently proven what actually triggers this.

The condition leads your body to send antibodies to your joints to attack what it mistakenly identifies as an intruder, harming the cells around your joints (synovium) and inflaming them. This, in turn, can cause damage to tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage. If not treated properly, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to the complete destruction of an affected joint.


Who does arthritis affect?

Rheumatoid arthritis is believed to affect approximately 400,000 adults in the UK, and can affect anyone of any age. Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than men, and some research suggests that smokers are at increased risk of developing the condition. Many may ask ‘is arthritis hereditary?’ – the answer is that although there is some evidence that rheumatoid arthritis can sometimes run in families, the risk of inheriting arthritis is low, as genetics aren’t thought to be a major cause.

Is arthritis curable?

While there isn’t a cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are ways to minimise joint damage and keep the condition as controllable as possible. Early identification and treatment – such as lifestyle changes, GP-prescribed medicine or physical therapies – can help keep symptoms as minimal as possible and reduce the risk of the condition worsening. 

If you’re concerned you may be suffering from inflammation or want to know more about our Inflammation (CRP) blood test, get in touch with our friendly team.