Rheumatoid Arthritis Center

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis
As many as 2 million Americans are affected by the condition called "rheumatoid arthritis".  Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA for short, usually causes pain in the hands and the feet, and can cause people to feel sick, tired, and acquire fevers.  But what triggers this type of pain? And where does it occur?

What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints in your body by causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.  Joints exist wherever you have two bones that meet and allow movement:  your toes, elbow, shoulder, hip, etc.  At the tips of the bones you have cartilage, which makes sure that the bones do not rub against each other, and a little bag called synovium; this bag makes a fluid that keeps the joints lubricated. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect other parts of the body as well, including the lining of the heart and lungs, nervous system, blood vessels, and eyes.

In a healthy body, the immune system fights infections. But during rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system creates antibodies that actually attack your own joints.  When rheumatoid arthritis attacks the synovial fluid in the joints, the resulting inflammation causes pain, redness, and tenderness. 

The duration of rheumatoid arthritis can vary significantly, from a few months, to a few years, or even a lifetime.  Rheumatoid arthritis that lasts for a lifetime can damage the joints significantly, and can affect larger joints such as the hips, shoulders, and jaws.  Long lasting damage can include deformities.  Learn more about what causes rheumatoid arthritis here.

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