A chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the joints and surrounding tissues.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease wherein the immune system attacks the cells lining the joints, the synovium. Thus stimulated, the linings of the joints become inflamed and secrete more fluid than usual. Over time, the linings of the joints thicken and the process erodes the cartilage, tendons and ligaments of the joint.

The cause of the disease is unknown. An infection, allergy, or hormonal disturbance may initiate the disease process.

Epidemiology:

Rheumatoid arthritis may occur at any age. It is most likely to occur between 25 to 55 years of age. Women are three times more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis, with the likelihood of developing the disease increasing with age for both sexes About three percent of the population has rheumatoid arthritis.

Prevention:

There is no known way to prevent rheumatoid arthritis. Early treatment may prevent further damage of the joints.

Symptoms:

The onset of the disease is usually slow. Most people initially experience fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness, low grade fever, and vague muscular symptoms. Eventually, joint pain appears. The joint will be warm, swollen, and tender. Morning stiffness lasting longer than thirty minutes will occur, as will decreased joint range of movement.

Initially, only a couple of joints are affected. As the disease progress, many other joints are involved. The joints usually are affected in a symmetrical pattern: both sides of the body are affected equally. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees and ankles. Occasionally, the hips, jaw and neck may be affected. Joint deformities occur because of destruction to the cartilage and supporting tissues around the bones.

Treatment

Most medical treatment is centered around reducing inflammation either directly using NSAIDS (advil, naproxen sodium) or by suppressing the immune system using steroids.

A physical therapist can use special machines to apply deep heat or electrical stimulation to reduce pain and improve joint mobility. An occupational therapist can teach how to best protect and use your joints when they are affected by arthritis.

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS (RA; in Latin called: Polyarthrtis rheumatoidea) is a chronic, creeping and unfortunately still incurable inflammatory disease of the joints and other systems of human body. According to the statistics RA affects about 1% of the population. For example in Poland with population about almost 38 mln of people, we have between 132000 – 400 000 of patients suffering from RA. How many people are still not diagnosed and do not know about their illness?… it remains a very good question…...


RA affects ladies (females) 3 times more frequently than gentlemen (males).


The disease is slowly destroying your joints. It can destroy almost every joint in our body, even the temporomandibular joint (the joint of the mandible) and even the laryngeal joints (the joints of the larynx) that can cause hoarseness. RA very often almost in every patients affects proximal interphalangeal joints of the hand (proximal interphalangeal articulations; PIP, PIJ) and metacarpophalangeal joints (MCP), often knees, shoulders and feet.
But on the other hand, what is very interesting and important, rheumatoid arthritis NEVER concerns and NEVER destroys distal interphalangeal joints of human hand (distal interphalangeal articulations, DIP, DIJ)!
Never these joints!
But please remember that distal interphalangeal joints are very often attacked in psoriatic arthritis (that is one of the clinical symptoms that differentiates those two illnesses).


RA can affect also:
1) cardiovascular system,
2) respiratory system,
3) kidneys,
4) can lead to amyloidosis,
5) can lead to vasculitis,
6) can lead polyneuropathy,
7) can lead to Felty' syndrome,
8) is a risk factor of carpal tunnel syndrome,

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