General or Other | Rheumatology | Rheumatoid arthritis (Disease)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks flexible (synovial) joints. The process involves an inflammatory response of the capsule around the joints (synovium) secondary to swelling (hyperplasia) of synovial cells, excess synovial fluid, and the development of fibrous tissue (pannus) in the synovium.
The symptoms and course of rheumatoid arthritis vary from person to person and can change on a daily basis. Your joints may feel warm to the touch and you might notice a decreased range of motion, as well as inflammation, swelling and pain in the areas around the affected joints.
Causes and Risk factors
Most people with RA experience intermittent bouts of intense disease activity, called flares. In some people the disease is continuously active and gets worse over time. Others enjoy long periods of remission – no disease activity or symptoms at all. Evidence shows that early diagnosis and aggressive treatment to put the disease into remission is the best means of avoiding joint destruction, organ damage and disability.
Rheumatoid arthritis is symmetrical, meaning if a joint on one side of the body is affected, the corresponding joint on the other side of the body is also involved. Because the inflammation is systemic, patients feel fatigued and they may become anemic, lose their appetite and run a low-grade fever.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, meaning it can’t be cured.