What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis.
Prednisone tablets can have many effects on the body, but are most commonly used for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects joints, causing pain, inflammation, and decreased mobility.
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  • Written By: S. Mithra
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Images By: Banglds, Thirteen Of Clubs, Hriana
  • Last Modified Date: 04 July 2014
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The autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis affects joints in causing pain, inflammation, and decreased mobility. About 1% of the population suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, with women being two or three times as likely to develop it. While there is neither a known cause nor a cure for this degenerative condition, early diagnosis and treatment can extend joint flexibility and reduce discomfort.

The reason rheumatoid arthritis classifies as a systemic, autoimmune disorder is that it occurs throughout the body when our antibodies begin to attack healthy tissue. This type of arthritis can affect muscles and organs, in addition to joints, as it progresses. Usually, onset of rheumatoid arthritis occurs between 40-60 years old, and first manifests in wrists and hands. The medical community believes there is a genetic as well as environmental factor in its development. Cigarette smoking increases your risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis goes through worsening stages, but can also have cycles of flaring up and going into remission. At first, joints stiffen and redden when their delicate lining, the synovium, swells. Symptoms will vary from pain and discomfort in symmetrical parts of the body, to a low fever, loss of appetite, or fatigue. Next, the body reacts by trying to cushion the joint, thickening the synovium. Finally, antibodies assault the entire joint by breaking down bone, ligaments, tendons, synovium, and cartilage. This results in deformed or askew joints that bend with difficulty. The whole joint area will be inflamed, discolored, heavy, and painful.

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Doctors can diagnose rheumatoid arthritis by taking a history of your joint paint and ruling out other types of arthritis. Treatment by a specialist, a rheumatologist, will be personalized to both reduce symptoms and postpone worsening joint health. Your tailored treatment might include mild exercise, anti-inflammatory medicine or cortisone shots to reduce swelling, analgesics to ease pain, or medication like prednisone to prevent further damage to joints. In some cases, your doctor might extract liquid from the joints with arthrocentesis. This relieves some pressure and gives the doctor something to chemically analyze. Overall, treatment of rheumatoid arthritis continues to improve with better medication and a broad understanding of this disease that affects the whole body.

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Discuss this Article

kidneykathy
Post 4

I just found out today I had a low-positive result for RA two years ago, but no one told me before. My fingers (I have trigger finger, too) and ankles all swelled up, and I am being referred to a rheumatologist.

anon140902
Post 3

in ayurveda there are good treatments for it.

srinath2572
Post 2

i'm a male, 36 years old, living in canada. i have lot of pain in my knees. doctor told me its arthritis, but i don't know yet, because he didn't check anything. i want to know which type arthritis i have. how does he decide without any tests? how do i prevent it?

jabuka
Post 1

Drinking green tea might help with inflammation of joints. Of course it will not prevent rheumatoid arthritis, but it has shown to have beneficial effect.

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