Last Updated on February 19, 2021Like it or not, our bodies become more fragile with age. Bones and joints are precisely the body parts that suffer the most from the aging process. So much so that arthritis is an extremely common disease among the elderly. Of course, we are talking about a very specific type of arthritis: osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disorder that is by far the most common form of arthritis. Over time, the cartilage surrounding the joints gets tired, making the bones to brush against one another, thus exposing little nerves. The result is joint pain, stiffness, and even inflammation. But there are other types of arthritis that cause similar symptoms and need to be addressed differently. Like rheumatoid arthritis, for example. Before discussing some of the rheumatoid arthritis early symptoms that you should be aware of, let’s learn a little bit more about this condition that often goes overlooked. What is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? Unlike osteoarthritis, RA is an autoimmune condition. This means that the body interprets the healthy tissue surrounding the joints (in this case, the synovium) as a threat and sends an immune response to fight it. The inflammation caused by the immune response can completely damage the joint’s cartilage and bone. The reason why this glitch in the immune system occurs is still mostly unknown, but medical experts believe that it might be due to a combination of genetic factors, hormonal changes, and environmental factors. Besides age, family history, and environmental exposures, other known risk factors include obesity, smoking, and gender (women are far more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis.) By now, you are probably asking: can you prevent rheumatoid arthritis? Well, it’s complicated. Since the cause itself is not yet fully understood, it can be hard to develop a solid plan to prevent rheumatoid arthritis. Nevertheless, controlling risk factors (at least those that are controllable) is a good starting point especially considering that rheumatoid arthritis patients have a drastically higher risk of developing dangerous complications, such as osteoporosis, infections, rheumatoid nodules, heart conditions, lung disease, lymphoma, and carpal tunnel syndrome.