The Ability Clinic   

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints. In RA,

theimmune system mistakenly attacks the synovium, the lining of the membranes that surround the joints,causing inflammation. This inflammation can lead to joint damage and other systemic complications.

Key features of rheumatoid arthritis include:

1. Autoimmune Nature: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the immune system, which is designed to protect the body from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses, mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissues. This immune response triggers inflammation in the affected joints.

2. Symmetrical Joint Involvement: RA typically affects joints on both sides of the body symmetrically. For example, if one knee or hand is affected, the same joint on the opposite side is likely to be affected as well.

3. Chronic Inflammation: Persistent inflammation in the synovium can lead to the formation of pannus, an abnormal tissue that can erode cartilage and bone within the joint.

4. Joint Pain and Stiffness: RA commonly causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity.

5. Joint Deformities: Over time, untreated or inadequately treated RA can lead to joint deformities, such as misalignment and joint destruction.

6. Systemic Symptoms: While RA primarily affects the joints, it can also have systemic effects, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, fever, and weight loss.

7. Extra-Articular Involvement: RA can affect other organs and tissues in the body, such as the skin, eyes, heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

8. Diagnosis: Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests (such as blood tests for rheumatoid factor and anti-citrullinated protein antibodies), and imaging studies (such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging).

9. Treatment: The goal of RA treatment is to manage symptoms, slow or stop the progression of joint damage, and improve overall quality of life. Treatment plans often include medications such as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and corticosteroids. Biologic agents, which target specific components of the immune system, may also be used in some cases.

10. Lifestyle Management: In addition to medications, lifestyle modifications, including regular exercise, joint protection, and stress management, can be important components of managing rheumatoid arthritis.

Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial in minimizing joint damage and improving long-termoutcomes for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. A rheumatologist, a doctor specializing in the treatment of rheumatic diseases, typically manages the care of individuals with RA.

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