Rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t just affect grandmas
The unfortunate reality is that the autoimmune disease, which causes often debilitating pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints, doesn’t discriminate. Though rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects two to three times more women than men, men can be and are diagnosed with the condition, according to Grace Wright, MD, rheumatologist and clinical associate professor at Langone Medical Center in New York City and past president of the American Association of Women in Rheumatology. More important, RA develops in people of all ages too. Dr. Wright is seeing an uptick in her patients who are 20 to 40 years old, and a second surge in the over-60 set. But so much is still unknown. “We have no sense for why those peaks occur,” she says.
It’s not clear why RA affects women more
Common theories include a genetic or hormonal link. Thing is, according to Dr. Wright, we don’t actually know what’s going on because those explanations don’t always hold up. The condition isn’t exclusive to women—men are impacted too. It also can occur pre-puberty (yep, that young), as well as during post-menopausal years where hormone levels are lower. “It’s not clear what the trigger is,” she says. (Here are the quiet signs you could be in menopause.)
Symptoms can be incapacitating
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can make daily function a challenge. You might feel extreme fatigue, like walking with bricks of cement on your feet or having no energy to move. Joint stiffness and swelling can also happen. “Patients describe themselves as ‘a robot that they forgot to oil,'” says Dr. Wright. Or, perhaps you feel so frozen that squeezing something is impossible, or it takes a few hours in the morning to get moving. Here’s how to make mornings easier.