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What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

By — One of many Arthritis blogs on

There are more than one hundred kinds of arthritis affecting millions of people globally.Most people understand that Rheumatoid arthritis affects joints and causes joint pain, and most people realize that it can be crippling, but many often underestimate its debilitating effects.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis differs from osteoarthritis in that it's not a result of wear and tear on the joints.Rheumatoid arthritis is actually an autoimmune disease.A properly functioning immune system protects the body from disease or infection.Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system mistakenly begins attacking the lining of the joints, called the synovium.

What Are the Symptoms?

Rheumatoid arthritis has several symptoms, but those who have it typically have flare-ups of the symptoms.Some of these include pain and swelling in the joints, especially those of the hands and feet; pain or stiffness in the joints, even after rest; a general malaise; limited motion in those joints; weakness in the muscles surrounding the joints; deformity of those joints; fatigue; loss of appetite; and a low-grade fever.

Who Is at Risk?

Anyone may get Rheumatoid arthritis, but women are nearly three times more likely than men, and smokers have an increased susceptibility.Typically, the initial onset begins somewhere between the ages of twenty to fifty.While Rheumatoid arthritis isn't inherited genetically, researchers believe that there may be a gene making people more susceptible to it.Certain infections seem to cause a greater risk for some. At this point, the definitive cause for Rheumatoid arthritis is uncertain.

What Is the Prognosis?

Symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis usually begin with pain in the wrists, hands, knees, and feet, and it usually affects both sides of the body at once.Later, other areas such as the shoulders, jaw, neck, and elbows can become affected.Some people will get painless lumps or nodules, usually at pressure points such as the hands, the elbows, feet, the Achilles tendon, and sometimes the scalp.Over time, Rheumatoid arthritis can cause deformity in the joints.Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause inflammation in the tear ducts, salivary glands, the lungs, the lining of the heart and lungs, and even blood vessels.

What Is the Treatment?

Unfortunately, right now there is no cure for Rheumatoid arthritis, but there are quite a few treatment options that you may wish to discuss with a doctor.Pain medications that can help with inflammation are helpful, but they do not stop the damage to the joints.Steroids can be used to help with the pain and swelling, but they are a short-term option.There are now anti-rheumatic drugs that can slow the damage to joints, but they take a while to be effective.All of these treatments can have serious side effects, so it's important to work with the doctor when a person is on any of these treatments.


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