Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that results in chronic inflammation of your joints, typically in the hands and feet. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of all ages, but it is seen more often in older women over age 40. Rheumatoid arthritis is currently incurable, and the aim of treatment is to diminish symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, which means that it occurs when your immune system targets parts of your own body by mistake. Symptoms are typically restricted to the hands and feet, though rheumatoid arthritis may affect other areas of the body as well. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disorder, which means that it may last for years. Symptoms may change daily, and symptoms may also come and go for long periods of time. Periods of increased inflammation are referred to as flares.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means that it occurs when your immune system mistakes your own body as a threat. Rheumatoid arthritis starts when your immune system targets the synovium, a lining of soft tissue that surrounds your joints. The joint becomes inflamed, and results in the gradual erosion and destruction of the cartilage and bone within the joint. Surrounding tendons and ligaments are also affected, and may cause joint disfiguration. The cause of this remains unknown, though evidence points toward genetic factors that could make a person more vulnerable to infections that might lead to rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis may be diagnosed by a physical test, blood tests, or X-rays. In a physical test, a doctor examines your joints for symptoms, such as swelling, redness, and warmth. Blood tests look for increases in your erythrocyte sedimentation rate, which will occur when a part of your body is inflamed. Also, blood tests may look for rheumatoid factor antibodies, a type of antibody that is found in the blood of most people with rheumatoid arthritis.
As there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, the aim of treatment is to reduce symptoms, usually by a mix of medication, which works by reducing inflammation, and physical and occupational therapy, which teach patients how to overcome their symptoms and lead normal lifestyles. Medications may have serious side effects. Also, a patient may require surgery if there joints are severely damaged.
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