It's believed that approximately one percent of the world’s population is affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Basically, rheumatoid is an inflammation of the synovium, or lining, of one or more joints in the body, and it's considered a chronic condition. The immune system attacks the normal tissue of joints, believing them to be invading pathogens. This means that rheumatoid arthritis is also an autoimmune disease. Most people recognize that rheumatoid arthritis inflames and attacks the joint linings, but what's not so well known is that it can also cause inflammation of the membrane linings of blood vessels, lungs and the heart.
The most common joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis are the hands and feet, but it's possible for any membrane-lined joint to be affected. The inflammation is controlled using medication. This is essential, because otherwise the inflammation can cause deformity of the joints. This may result in long-term joint damage, chronic pain, a reduction in function and even disability.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs in three main stages. Firstly, the synovial lining swells, which causes pain, stiffness, warmth, redness and some swelling around the affected joints. In the second stage, the synovium starts to thicken, which is caused by the rapid growth and division of cells, or pannus. Once the third stage is reached, enzymes are released by the inflamed cells. These can be absorbed by bone and cartilage in the joints, leading to more pain, loss of movement and deformity.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can often cycle from minor right through to severe. The most recognizable symptoms include:
- Swelling of the small joints in the hands and feet
- Tenderness, stiffness and pain in the joints, particularly in the morning
- Hardened lumps within the joints
- Destruction of cartilage and bone
The earlier you are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, the better your chances of controlling it. By starting the correct treatment straight away you have a reasonable chance of avoiding deformity and disability. The effects of rheumatoid arthritis can be serious, and impact on all aspects of a person's life and healthy.
If you believe you are developing rheumatoid arthritis, consult your medical professional immediately for a correct diagnosis. Your medical professional will then be able to formulate a plan for you to follow, including the right medication. With careful management, the pain and swelling can be reduced, joint damage may be slowed or even halted, and you will feel better and be more active.
Researchers are still trying to discover what exactly causes rheumatoid arthritis, and although there are several theories, none have been proven conclusively to be the cause. In the meantime, despite the fact that there's no cure, it's possible to control the disease with new drugs, joint protection techniques and exercise. If managed, you can still lead a healthy, happy and fulfilling life, despite having rheumatoid arthritis.
For more helpful information about arthritis, check out http://arthritisinfozone.com , a website created by the author to help people learn more about arthritis.