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Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis: Introduction

Rheumatoid arthritis is an ongoing, progressive disease that affects the joints of the body with episodes of painful inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis also affects other organs of the body and can result in the destruction of joints, disability, and in severe cases, life threatening complications.

The onset of rheumatoid arthritis, also known as RA, can occur at any age and affects women more than men. In general, the younger a person is when he or she develops rheumatoid arthritis, the more rapidly that disease progresses. About 10% of people with the disease become severely disabled. In addition, life expectancy may be shortened by about 3 to 7 years, and those with severe forms of rheumatic arthritis may die 10-15 years earlier than expected due to possible life threatening complications, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, but it is classified as an autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, the body's immune system mistakes healthy tissues as foreign and potentially dangerous invaders into the body and attacks them. This results in inflammation that eventually can destroy the affected joints and damage blood vessels and organs.

Rheumatic arthritis causes inflammation of the synovial membranes that line and protect the joints and allow smooth and free movement of joints. When the synovial membranes are inflamed, they become swollen, tender and warm, and are unable to move freely. This process eventually leads to deformity and destruction of the joints.

The way that the disease affects people varies greatly from person to person, but generally affects wrists, fingers, knees, feet, and ankles on both sides of the body. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be mild, moderate, or severe. For more details on symptoms, refer to symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Making a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. Medical testing may include a wide variety of tests, including a rheumatoid factor test, complete blood test (CBC), C-reactive protein, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, joint X-rays, and an analysis of the "lubricating" fluid in the joints (synovial fluid).

It is possible that a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis can be missed or delayed because the disease progresses gradually and early symptoms can be mild or assumed to be associated with other conditions, such as aging. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis varies depending on the severity of symptoms, the presence of complications, a person's age and medical history, and other factors. Rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured, but treatment can help to reduce symptoms and delay the destruction of joints. Treatment can include a combination of medication, physical therapy, and surgery. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. ...more »

Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an ongoing, progressive disease that affects the joints of the body with episodes of painful, even disabling inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis also affects other organs of the body and can result in the destruction of joints, and in severe cases, life threatening complications. The way that the disease affects people varies greatly from person to person, but generally affects wrists, fingers, knees, feet, and ankles on both sides of the body. The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, but it is classified as an autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, the body's immune system mistakes healthy tissues as foreign and potentially dangerous invaders into the body and attacks them, resulting in inflammation that eventually can destroy the affected joints and damage to blood vessels and organs. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a different disease process than osteoarthritis. In osteoarthritis, joint pain and damage is due to injury and wear and tear and there is no underlying generalized inflammatory process in the body. The onset of rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age and affects women more than men.

Rheumatoid arthritis can be mild, moderate, or severe. However, no matter what the age of the person or severity, rheumatoid arthritis may seriously impede a person's ability to work and participate in other activities of daily living. In general, the younger a person is when he or she develops rheumatoid arthritis, the more rapidly that disease progresses. About 10% of people with the disease become severely disabled. In addition, life expectancy may be shortened by about 3 to 7 years, and those with severe forms of rheumatic arthritis may die 10-15 years earlier than expected due to possible life threatening complications, according to the National Institutes of Health. The good news is that overall, severe disabilities and life-threatening complications due to rheumatic arthritis may be decreasing due to progress in research and treatments. ...more »

Rheumatoid arthritis: Symptoms

The types and severity of symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis varies between individuals. At the onset of the disease, the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be vague and develop slowly. They may not include the classic symptom of joint pain that people often associate with arthritis. These indistinct, early symptoms may include fatigue, loss of appetite, and weakness. Other early ...more symptoms »

Rheumatoid arthritis: Treatments

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but with early recognition and treatment, it is possible to minimize joint damage and complications of the disease. Because of the progressive, chronic nature of the disease, treatment also usually needs to be continuous, even lifelong in some cases. The most successful treatment plans usually use a multipronged approach, including physical ...more treatments »

Rheumatoid arthritis: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis may be delayed or missed because early symptoms, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches, and weakness, can develop slowly. They can also be easily attributed to other conditions, such as aging, excessive exercise, general malaise, influenza, or fibromyalgia. ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis

Treatments for Rheumatoid arthritis

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis: Related Patient Stories

Rheumatoid arthritis: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Rheumatoid arthritis.

Alternative Treatments for Rheumatoid arthritis

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Rheumatoid arthritis may include:

Types of Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) - when RA occurs in those under 16
  • Pauciarticular JRA - most common form of JRA (about 50%); involving 4 or less joints; usually large joints (e.g. knees); most commonly found in girls under 8.
  • Polyarticular JRA - about 30% of JRA cases; more than 4 joints; often small joints; often symmetrical.
  • Systemic JRA - about 20% of JRA; also called Still's disease;
  • more types...»

Curable Types of Rheumatoid arthritis

Possibly curable types of Rheumatoid arthritis include:

Rare Types of Rheumatoid arthritis:

Rare types of Rheumatoid arthritis include:

Diagnostic Tests for Rheumatoid arthritis

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Rheumatoid arthritis: Complications

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Causes of Rheumatoid arthritis

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More information about causes of Rheumatoid arthritis:

Disease Topics Related To Rheumatoid arthritis

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Rheumatoid arthritis:

Rheumatoid arthritis: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Rheumatoid arthritis

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Rheumatoid arthritis: Research Doctors & Specialists

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Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Rheumatoid arthritis

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Rheumatoid arthritis:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Rheumatoid arthritis, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Rheumatoid arthritis: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Rheumatoid arthritis

Medical research articles related to Rheumatoid arthritis include:

Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database

Rheumatoid arthritis: Animations

Prognosis for Rheumatoid arthritis

Prognosis for Rheumatoid arthritis: Normal lifespan typical. At least 70% lead an active normal life (usually with medications).

Research about Rheumatoid arthritis

Visit our research pages for current research about Rheumatoid arthritis treatments.

Clinical Trials for Rheumatoid arthritis

The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Rheumatoid arthritis include:

Statistics for Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis: Broader Related Topics

Rheumatoid arthritis Message Boards

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User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Rheumatoid arthritis, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Rheumatoid arthritis

Handout on Health Rheumatoid Arthritis: NIAMS (Excerpt)

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. It has several special features that make it different from other kinds of arthritis (see information box below). For example, rheumatoid arthritis generally occurs in a symmetrical pattern. This means that if one knee or hand is involved, the other one is also. The disease often affects the wrist joints and the finger joints closest to the hand. It can also affect other parts of the body besides the joints (see illustrations below). In addition, people with the disease may have fatigue, occasional fever, and a general sense of not feeling well (malaise). (Source: excerpt from Handout on Health Rheumatoid Arthritis: NIAMS)

Connective Tissue Diseases: NWHIC (Excerpt)

Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disorder in which immune cells attack and inflame the membrane around joints. It also can affect the heart, lungs, and eyes. Of the estimated 2.1 million Americans with rheumatoid arthritis, approximately 1.5 million (71 percent) are women. (Source: excerpt from Connective Tissue Diseases: NWHIC)

Definitions of Rheumatoid arthritis:

Chronic systemic disease, primarily of the joints, marked by inflammatory changes in the synovial membranes and articular structures, widespread fibrinoid degeneration of the collagen fibers in mesenchymal tissues, and by atrophy and rarefaction of bony structures; etiology is unknown, but autoimmune mechanisms have been implicated. - (Source - Diseases Database)

A chronic autoimmune disease with inflammation of the joints and marked deformities; something (possibly a virus) triggers an attack on the synovium by the immune system, which releases cytokines that stimulate an inflammatory reaction that can lead to the destruction of all components of the joint - (Source - WordNet 2.1)

 

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