Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis should not be confused with osteoarthritis.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
A joint is where two bones meet to allow movement of body parts. Arthritis means inflammation of joints. A typical sign of rheumatoid arthritis is swelling, pain, stiffness and redness at the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can also occur in tissue around the joints, such as the tendons, ligaments and muscles.
Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when tissue is mistakenly attacked by the body’s own immune system. The immune system contains cells and antibodies designed to protect the body from invaders, such as infections. People with autoimmune diseases have antibodies in the blood that target their own body’s tissue. Because it can affect organs, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as “a systemic illness” and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, meaning it can last for many years. Patients can experience long periods without symptoms. However, rheumatoid arthritis is typically a progressive disease that has the potential to destroy the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis can in some cases lead to the destruction of the cartilage, bone and ligaments, causing joint deformation. The damage of the joints varies from patient to patient and can occur early in the disease and be progressive. Clinical studies have shown that the progressive damage to the joints does not necessarily correlate with the degree of pain, stiffness or swelling present in the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a common rheumatic disease, affecting millions of people. The disease is three times more common in women as in men. The disease can begin at any age and even affect children in a disease called “juvenile rheumatoid arthritis”, but it most often occurs after 40 years of age and before 60 years of age.
What causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is still unknown, but rheumatoid arthritis is a very active area of worldwide clinical research.
Even though infectious agents like viruses, bacteria and fungi have long been suspected, none of them has been proven as the primary cause of rheumatoid arthritis. It is believed that the tendency to develop rheumatoid arthritis may be genetically inherited. It is also suspected that certain infections or factors in the environment might trigger the activation of the immune system. As an example, scientists have reported that smoking tobacco increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
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