Rheumatoid arthritis affects about one percent of the world’s population. It is a chronic inflammatory illness, characterized by the inflammation of the lining, or synovium, of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is also an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system attacks normal tissue components as if they were invading pathogens.
Rheumatoid arthritis inflammation primarily attacks the linings of the joints, however, the membrane linings of the blood vessels, heart and lungs may also become inflamed.
The joints in the hands and feet are most often affected by rheumatoid arthritis, but any joint lined by a membrane may be involved. Medication can control the inflammation; if the inflammation is not controlled, deformity of the joints can result. It can lead to long-term joint damage, resulting in chronic pain, lost function and disability.
There are three stages of rheumatoid arthritis. The first stage starts with the swelling of the synovial lining, causing pain, warmth, stiffness, redness and swelling around the joints. The second stage is the rapid division and growth of cells, or pannus, which causes the thickening of the synovium. In the third stage, the inflamed cells releases enzymes that bone and cartilage may absorb causing the involved joint to more pain, deformity and loss of movement.
Rheumatoid arthritis patients suffer from cycles of severe and light symptoms. The following are symptoms and effects of rheumatoid arthritis:
? Joint swelling in small joints of the hands and feet
? Joint tenderness, stiffness, and pain especially in the morning
? Hardened lumps in joints
? Cartilage and bone destruction
Rheumatoid arthritis can have a serious effect on a person’s life and health, especially if it is not detected and treated early. Knowing the correct diagnosis early is very important because it helps you start the appropriate treatment immediately thus giving you a better chance to avoid disability and deformity.
It is always advisable to consult your physician regarding the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. With the proper diagnosis, you can take control of the disease with the right medication. Doctors have many ways to treat this disease, the goals of which is to take away pain, reduce swelling, slow down or stop joint damage, help people feel better, and help people stay active.
Currently, the exact cause of the disease is unknown, although there are several theories, like abnormal autoimmune response, genetic susceptibility, and some environmental factors. Scientists are well on their way to understanding the events that lead to abnormal responses of the body’s immune system. And while there is no cure, controlling the disease through the use of new drugs, exercise, joint protection techniques and self-management techniques have been done by patients to have happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives.