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What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the joints. It is a disabling and painful inflammatory condition, which can lead to substantial loss of mobility due to pain and joint destruction. The skeletal system of the body is made up of different types of strong, fibrous tissue called connective tissue. Bone, cartilage,
ligaments, and tendons are all forms of connective tissue that have different compositions and different characteristics.
The joints are structures that hold two or more bones together. Some joints (synovial joints) allow for movement between the bones being joined (articulating bones). The simplest synovial joint involves two bones, separated by a slight gap called the joint cavity. The ends of each articular bone are covered by a layer of cartilage. Both articular bones and the joint cavity are surrounded by a tough tissue called the articular capsule. The articular capsule has two components, the fibrous membrane on the outside and the synovial membrane (or synovium) on the inside. The fibrous membrane may include tough bands of tissue called ligaments, which are responsible for providing support to the joints. The synovial membrane has special cells and many tiny blood vessels (capillaries). This membrane produces a supply of synovial fluid that fills the joint cavity, lubricates it, and helps the articular bones move smoothly about the joint.
In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the synovial membrane becomes severely inflamed. Usually thin and delicate, the synovium becomes thick and stiff, with numerous infoldings on its surface. The membrane is invaded by white blood cells, which produce a variety of destructive chemicals. The cartilage along the articular surfaces of the bones may be attacked and destroyed, and the bone, articular capsule, and ligaments may begin to wear away (erode). These processes severely interfere with movement in the joint.
Unlike osteoarthritis, which results from wear and tear on your joints, rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but most experts believe it is an autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks the body's own tissues rather than attacking outside threats such as infection. One theory suggests that people who develop rheumatoid arthritis are born with an immune system that is prone to abnormal function, especially if stimulated by a trigger (an example of a trigger could be an infection). Somehow, in rheumatoid arthritis, the combination of an abnormally functioning immune system and an outside trigger provokes the body to attack its own joints and other tissues.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects joints on both sides of the body equally -- wrists, fingers, knees, feet, and ankles are the most commonly affected. The main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints of the hands, wrists, elbows, feet, ankles, knees, or neck. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects both sides of the body at the same time. Patients frequently experience painful joint stiffness when they first get up in the morning, lasting for perhaps an hour. Over time, the joints become deformed. The joints may be difficult to straighten, and affected fingers and toes may be permanently bent (flexed). The hands and feet may curve outward in an abnormal way. In rare but severe cases, rheumatoid arthritis may affect the eyes, lungs, heart, nerves, or blood vessels. See an illustration of the most commonly affected joints.
When the synovium (the lining of the joint) becomes inflamed, it secretes more fluid and the joint becomes swollen. Later, the cartilage becomes rough and pitted. The underlying bone is eventually affected. Joint destruction may begin, often within 1-2 years after the appearance of the disease. Deformities result from cartilage destruction, bone erosions, and tendon inflammation and rupture. A life-threatening joint complication can occur when the cervical spine becomes unstable as a result of RA. Other features of the disease that do not involve the joints may occur. Rheumatoid nodules are painless, hard, round or oval masses that appear under the skin, usually on pressure points, such as the elbow or Achilles tendon. These are present in about 20% of cases and tend to reflect more severe disease. On occasion, nodules appear in the eye where they sometimes cause inflammation. If they occur in the lungs, inflammation of the lining of the lung (pleurisy) may occur, causing shortness of breath and fluid accumulation in the lung.
Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, but most often appears first between the ages of 25 and 50. Rheumatoid arthritis affects around one percent of Americans, but is three times more common in women than in men. It affects people of all races, and appears to run in families. Rheumatoid arthritis is actually a family of related diseases, not a single entity. A family history of rheumatoid arthritis increases a person's risk of getting this disease, but most persons with this disease are the only ones in the family with it.The problems are primarily a consequence of persistent inflammation. In the right place and for a limited period, such as a localised infection, inflammation is good, because it is the body's mechanism for dealing with the problem. It results in the attraction of white cells from the blood, which help fight the infection.
More information on rheumatoid arthritis and other arthritis conditions (osteoarthritis, septic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Reiter's syndrome, ankylosing spondylitis, gout)
What is rheumatoid arthritis? - Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that marked by stiffness and inflammation of the joints, weakness, loss of mobility, and deformity.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis? - The cause of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is unknown. Rheumatoid arthritis involves an attack on the body by its own immune cells (auto-immune disease).
What're the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis? - The symptoms that distinguish rheumatoid arthritis are inflammation and soft-tissue swelling of many joints at the same time (polyarthritis).
How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed? - Health professionals diagnose rheumatoid arthritis by examining joints and evaluating ymptoms, medical history, and results of several tests.
What's the treatment for rheumatoid arthritis? - The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis includes the use of non-drug treatment such as rest and physiotherapy, drugs may be required both to control symptoms of the disease.
What rheumatoid arthritis medications are available? - Rheumatoid arthritis medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, injectable gold salts, plaquenil or hydroxychloroquine.
What rheumatoid arthritis diet is suggested? - Certain vitamin supplements may be beneficial. Many herbs also are useful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
What is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis? - Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a form of arthritis in children ages 16 or younger that causes inflammation and stiffness of joints for more than six weeks.
What causes juvenile rheumatoid arthritis? - Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is considered to be a multifactorial condition.
What're the symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis? - Symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may appear during episodes (flare-ups) or may be chronic and continuous.
How is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed? - Diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is often made on the basis of the child's collection of symptoms.
What're the treatments for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis? - The treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis centers on decreasing joint inflammation, suppressing pain, and preserving movement.
What is osteoarthritis? - Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as arthrosis or degenerative joint disease, is a disease featuring pain and impaired function of the joints.
What causes osteoarthritis? - Primary osteoarthritis is mostly related to aging. Osteoarthritis results from a combination of genetic predisposition and joint injuries.
What're the risk factors for osteoarthritis? - Risk factors for osteoarthritis are congenital hip luxation, obesity, osteoporosis, and inflammatory diseases.
What're the complications of osteoarthritis? - The major complication of osteoarthritis is pain. The degree of pain can vary greatly. Osteoarthritis itself is not life threatening.
What are symptoms of osteoarthritis? - The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are is pain that worsens during activity and that gets better during rest.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed? - The doctor makes the diagnosis of osteoarthritis based on the characteristic symptoms, physical examination, and the x-ray appearance of joints.
What's the treatment for osteoarthritis? - Osteoarthritis is treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Severe pain in specific joints can be treated with local injections with lidocaine.
What're the medications for osteoarthritis? - Acetaminophen is used for mild to moderate osteoarthritis. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or COX-2 medications for moderate to severe arthritic pain.
What nutritional supplements cure osteoarthritis? - A combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate is used as a dietary supplement to cure osteoarthritis. Vitamin D and calcium are recommended for strong bones.
Treatments for osteoarthritis pain relief - OTC pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and aspirin are familiar choices for the treatment of osteoarthritis pain relief.
What osteoarthritis exercise is suggested? - Regular exercise is very important for successful control of osteoarthritis. Exercise helps patients ostearthritis in the hip or in the knee.
Can osteoarthritis be prevented? - Obese people are at risk of osteoarthritis and that weight loss can help prevent or delay osteoarthritis from occurring.
What is osteoarthritis of the hip? - Osteoarthritis of the hip can cause insidious pain in the groin or inguinal region and, on occasion, pain in the side of the buttock or upper thigh.
What is arthritis? - Arthritis is a group of conditions that affect the health of the bone joints in the body. Arthritis is painful inflammation of a joint or joints of the body.
What types of arthritis are there? - Types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, gout, infectious arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus.
What causes arthritis? - The causes of arthritis depend on the form of arthritis. The cause of arthritis may be an infection, injury, abnormality of the immune system, aging.
What're the risk factors for arthritis? - Risk factors for arthritis include age, gender, obesity, injury, ethnicity. The risk of developing arthritis increases with age.
What're the signs and symptoms of arthritis? - Different types of arthritis have different symptoms. Other arthritis symptoms include fatigue, fever, a rash and the signs of joint inflammation.
How is arthritis diagnosed? - The diagnosis of arthritis is based on the pattern of symptoms, medical history, family history, physical examination, X-rays and lab tests.
What's the treatment for arthritis? - The objectives in the treatment of arthritis are controlling inflammation, preserving joint function, and curing the disease if that is possible.
Therapies for arthritis pain relief - Short-term relief for arthritis pain and inflammation may include pain relievers. NSAIDs are used to reduce pain and inflammation.
What natural therapies are available to cure arthritis? - Natural therapies for arthritis pain relief include glucosamine, chondroitin sulfates, nettle leaf, S-adenosylmethionine, and exrutine.
What can be done to prevent arthritis? - Consumption of green tea may prevent arthritis damage and benefit the arthritis patient by reducing inflammation and slowing cartilage breakdown.
What is the Arthritis Foundation? - The Arthritis Foundation is the only nationwide, nonprofit health organization helping take greater control of arthritis in the United States.
What is septic arthritis (infectious arthritis)? - Septic arthritis, also known as infectious arthritis or pyogenic arthritis, is an infection in the joint (synovial) fluid and joint tissues.
What causes septic arthritis? - Septic arthritis develops when bacteria spread from a source of infection through the bloodstream to a joint or the joint is directly infected by traumatic penetration.
What're the symptoms of septic arthritis? - The symptoms of septic arthritis (infectious arthritis) include swelling in the infected joint and pain when the joint is moved.
How is septic arthritis diagnosed? - The diagnosis of infectious arthritis depends on a combination of laboratory testing with careful history-taking and physical examination of the affected joint.
What is the treatment for septic arthritis? - The goal of treatment for septic arthritis is to eliminate the infection with antibiotic therapy. Septic arthritis requires immediate treatment.
What is psoriatic arthritis? - Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the joints that occurs in some people with a chronic skin and nail condition known as psoriasis.
What causes psoriatic arthritis? - The cause of psoriatic arthritis is unknown. Psoriatic is triggered by an attack of the body's own immune system on itself.
What're the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis? - Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include dry, scaly, silver patches of skin combined with joint pain and destructive changes in the feet, hands, knees, and spine
How is psoriatic arthritis diagnosed? - The diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis is made by identifying the typical symptoms of arthritis in a person with psoriasis.
What's the treatment for psoriatic arthritis? - Treatment of psoriatic arthritis focuses on controlling the skin rash and relieving joint inflammation.
What is Reiter's syndrome (reactive arthritis)? - Reiter's syndrome (reactive arthritis) is a group of symptoms consisting of arthritis, urethritis, conjunctivitis, and lesions of the skin.
What causes Reiter's syndrome (reactive arthritis)? - Reiter's syndrome appears to be a reaction to an infection that begins in an area of the body other than the joints.
What're the symptoms of Reiter's syndrome? - The symptoms of of Reiter's syndrome appear within days or weeks of infection followed by a low-grade fever, conjunctivitis.
How is Reiter's syndrome diagnosed? - Diagnosis of Reiter's syndrome is often difficult because there is no specific test to confirm that a person has reactive arthritis.
What's the treatment for Reiter's syndrome? - The objective of treatment for Reiter's syndrome is to alleviate the symptoms associated with the syndrome and to treat any underlying infection.
What is ankylosing spondylitis? - Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the joints between the vertebrae of the spine, and the joints between the spine and the pelvis.
What causes ankylosing spondylitis? - The specific cause of ankylosing spondylitis is unknown, but the disease tends to run in families, indicating that genetics plays a role.
What're the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis? - Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis include back pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and anemia.
How is ankylosing spondylitis diagnosed? - Doctors usually diagnose ankylosing spondylitis simply by the patient's report of pain and stiffness.
What's the treatment for ankylosing spondylitis? - Physical therapy for ankylosing spondylitis can provide a number of benefits, from pain relief to improved physical strength and flexibility.
What is gout (gouty arthritis)? - Gout or gouty arthritis is a form of arthritis caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals (due to hyperuricemia) in joints.
What causes gout (gouty arthritis)? - Gout is caused by a defect in metabolism which results in an overproduction of uric acid or leads to reduced ability of the kidney to eliminate uric acid.
What are the risk factors for gout? - Risk factors for gout (gouty arthritis) include genetics, age, gender, alcohol use, obesity, medications, and medical conditions.
What're the complications of gout? - Gout often accompanies heart problems, including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and congestive heart failure.
What are the symptoms of gout (gouty arthritis)? - An attack of chronic gout is similar to an attack of acute gouty arthritis. The affected joints show signs of warmth, redness, and tenderness.
How is gout diagnosed? - The diagnosis of gout is generally made on a clinical basis. Physicians can diagnose gout based on the physical examination and medical history.
What's the treatment for gout (gouty arthritis)? - The goals of treatment for gout consist of alleviating pain, avoiding severe attacks in the future, and preventing long-term joint damage.
What gout medications are available? - Gout medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine, corticosteroids, xanthine oxidase inhibitors, uricosuric agents.
What gout diet is suggested? - The principle of a gout diet is to reduce purines or lower uric acid when we take food. Avoid foods high in purines. Alcohol should be avoided.
How to prevent gout (gouty arthritis)? - Prevention is the best defense against gout (gouty arthritis). Losing weight and limiting alcohol intake can help ward off gout.