Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which can mean your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by accident, causing inflammation (painful swelling) in the affected parts of the body. RA mainly attacks the joints – usually more than one at a time. It most commonly affects joints in the wrists, hands and knees, in which the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to the joint tissue. The subsequent tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, unsteadiness and deformity.
Researchers have studied a number of genetic and environmental factors to determine if they change a person’s risk of developing RA.
Characteristics that can increase likelihood of developing arthritis include:
- Genetics and inherited traits
- History of birth – women who have never given birth may be at increased risk
- Early life exposure – e.g. if your mother smoked
If you have a hard time catching your breath and can’t work out exactly why – it could be due to RA.
Some people with the disease, especially men who were once smokers or who still smoke, are more likely to develop serous lung infections.
When RA inflammation causes scar tissue to form in the lungs, you may notice chronic coughing, shortness of breath, weakness and fatigue.
RA can also inflame the tissue that lines the lungs, leading to shortness of breath or pain, and discomfort when breathing.
If you have unusual breathing problems or a cough that just won’t go away, see your doctor as soon as possible to get to the bottom of it.