What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Posted Thursday, September 9, 2021

Did you know? Out of every 100,000 people, 71 are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis every year.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of autoimmune arthritis and affects more than 1.3 million Americans.

01 | Introduction

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, causing inflammation in the affected parts of the body. RA is most common in the hand, wrist and knee joints. When the lining of these joints become inflamed, it can cause damage to the joint tissue, which results in chronic pain, unsteadiness and deformity.

02 | Causes

Although the specific cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, there are a number of genetic and environmental factors that can increase the risk of developing this disease. These factors include:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Obesity

03 | Symptoms

Early rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect the smaller joints of the hands and feet first. As it progresses, symptoms will spread to other joints throughout the body. Some of these symptoms are:

  • Tenderness and swelling in more than one joint
  • The same symptoms in both sides of the body
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue or weakness

Those with this disease may experience varied severity of these symptoms as they tend to alternate between flares and periods of relative remission. Overtime, rheumatoid arthritis can cause joints to deform and shift out of place.

04 | Treatment

There is currently no cure for RA. The main goal of treatment is to lessen joint pain and swelling in order to improve a patient’s ability to perform daily activities. No single treatment works for all patients, and many will have to modify treatment at least once in their life. Starting medication as soon as possible can help prevent permanent damage in joints.

Learn More

For more information on rheumatoid arthritis and supportive resources, please visit www.rheumatology.org

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