What is Rheumatoid Arthritis and How Can It Affect You?

Dr. Kam Shojania, MD FRCPC, Rheumatologist, discusses rheumatoid arthritis.

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Dr. Kam Shojania, MD FRCPC, Rheumatologist, discusses rheumatoid arthritis.
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Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Kam Shojania, MD FRCPC, Rheumatologist

Duration: 2 minutes, 4 seconds

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the inflammation, types of, arthritis.  

It occurs in about one in 100 people. It is not as common as osteoarthritis and it attacks quite quickly and causes pain, inflammation, and loss of function in a number of joints within days to weeks.  

It is important to find the diagnosis early because we can stop the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, especially if it’s caught early. We don’t know what causes rheumatoid arthritis, but we think that there is a trigger in someone who’s genetically susceptible, where the immune system starts to attack the person’s own joints.  

So rheumatoid arthritis not only affects the joints, but it can affect other organ systems such as the eye, the lungs, the skin, and the blood vessels, so it’s really a body inflammation problem. 

The other thing about rheumatoid arthritis is that it shortens life expectancy. With the inflammation of the vascular system, there is earlier cardiovascular disease, so people with rheumatoid arthritis who have severe disease have about the same life expectancy as someone with triple vessel coronary artery disease or stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma. So those are the downsides of rheumatoid arthritis.  

The very good thing about this is that if we catch it early we can actually prevent these things from happening. Now, of course, if it goes on for some time and then we catch it – for example, a few years – then we can slow it down or perhaps even stop the progression, but we can’t go back.  

We can’t reverse the damage that’s already been done. So again, catching it early – we would call this medical urgency. It’s not an emergency, but it’s an urgency.  It needs to be diagnosed within weeks, if possible.

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Presenter: Dr. Kam Shojania, Rheumatologist, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Rheumatologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.