Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which can mean that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by accident, causing inflammation (painful swelling) in affected parts of the body. RA primarily attacks the joints – usually more than one at a time. It most commonly affects the joints of the wrists, hands and knees, in which the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to the joint tissue. The resulting tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, instability and deformity.
Researchers have studied a number of genetic and environmental factors to determine whether they affect a person’s risk for developing RA.
Features that can increase the likelihood of developing arthritis include:
- Genetics and inherited traits
- Birth history – women who have never given birth may be at increased risk
- Exposure early in life – for example if your mother smoked
READ MORE: Arthritis symptoms: sore throat and other non-joint symptoms
Difficulty in breathing
If you’re having trouble catching your breath and can’t figure out exactly why, it could be due to RA.
Some people with the disease, especially men who have smoked or who still smoke, are more likely to develop serous lung infections.
When the inflammation of RA causes scar tissue to form in the lungs, you may notice a chronic cough, shortness of breath, weakness, and fatigue.
Rheumatoid arthritis can also inflame the tissues that line the lungs, causing 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 for more information.