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Rheumatoid Arthritis
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What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The term arthritis refers to more than a hundred conditions that cause pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. Many misconceptions surround arthritis, one of which is the common notion that it's a disorder that only strike the elderly. But the truth is, joint disorders can affect anyone, even children are not spared from these problems. In the US, there are nearly 300,000 children suffering from arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease which mainly attacks the joints, but may also affect other tissues and organs. Over time, rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent damage to the joints. Read more about joints and surrounding structures.

In autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, the cells fail to recognize the difference between the body's own...

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the synovium. When this happens, the synovium thickens, swells, and eventually invades and damages the cartilage and bone within the joint. The tendons and ligaments that hold the joint together weaken and stretch. The affected joint gradually loses its shape and alignment.

The exact reason what starts off this process remains unclear, but the interplay between some factors are thought to contribute to the development of rheumatoid arthritis. These factors include: abnormal autoimmune response, genetics, and some environmental or biologic trigger, such as a viral infection or hormonal changes.

The Immune Response and Inflammatory Process

The normal immune system response. The body's immune system triggers...

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, progressive and potentially debilitating disease. It primarily causes joint pain and swelling, and may later on lead to deformities.

Rheumatoid arthritis usually develops in the wrists and knuckles. The knees and joints of the ball of the foot are also common sites affected by the disease. It may involve many joints including the cervical spine, shoulders, elbows, temporomandibular joint, and even joints in the inner ear. Below are the signs and symptoms that commonly occur with rheumatoid arthritis:

Morning stiffness.

This is considered as the hallmark symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. The stiffness limits function it may last for more than an hour.

Swelling and pain in the joints.

The inflamed joints are usually swollen and...

Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step towards managing rheumatoid arthritis effectively. Early detection and treatment can prevent or delay complications such as permanent damage to the joints and disability. Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis in its early stages can be a challenge because its early signs and symptoms also present in other health problems. The findings that are more likely to suggest the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • morning stiffness in and around the joints that lasts for 1 hour
  • involvement of three or more joints at the same time
  • symmetric involvement of joints
  • presence of subcutaneous nodules
  • abnormal amounts of serum rheumatoid factor
  • radiographic images suggestive of erosions and bony decalcification...

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