Nearly 1.5 million Americans are living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic disease that affects women two to three times more often than men. RA is one of several autoimmune diseases that occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy body tissue.
RA primarily affects the joints – especially in the hands and feet – but it can also affect other parts of the body, including the heart, lungs and blood vessels. RA causes pain, swelling and redness in the affected joints. Over time, cartilage and bone can become irreversibly damaged, causing permanent disability.
Two sisters diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis discuss their journey together.
Causes of RA
While the exact cause of RA is unknown, researchers believe it may be due to a combination of factors, including heredity, environmental exposures such as cigarette smoking and possibly infections or other types of stimulants to the immune system.
Monitoring Disease Activity in RA
Healthcare professionals commonly monitor RA over time. According to the guidelines of the American College of Rheumatology, RA disease activity should be assessed at every office visit. Your healthcare professional may evaluate your joints and ask you questions about your symptoms. While these assessments are critical, they are also subjective and may vary from one examiner to another. Everyone living with RA has a unique aspect to their disease biology, and each person experiences RA symptoms differently. RA disease activity tests such as Vectra®, which works by measuring the levels of 12 protein biomarkers in the blood and combining them into a single score, can be used to provide a quantitative measure to objectively assess and track RA disease activity.