Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that affects the joints of the body, and that can profoundly affect an individual’s ability to function at normal level. The effects of rheumatoid arthritis can be traced to inflammation caused by the body’s normal response to infections, injury, wounds, or foreign objects in the body. Those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis are commonly affected by feelings of pain, joint stiffness, swelling, and other symptoms. Moreover, many rheumatoid arthritis patients may suffer from complications associated with arthritis, as the inflammation associated with it can affect patient’s internal organs and other systems of the body. Treatment generally consists of controlling inflammation to prevent damage to joints or tissues.
What separates rheumatoid arthritis from other forms of arthritis? Rheumatoid arthritis is unique because it is classified as an autoimmune disease. In other words, the bodies own immune system is responsible for attacking and damaging its own cells and tissues that it normally protects. This happens when an individual’s immune system produces unique chemicals and cells that are released into the blood stream. These cells then begin to attack body tissues, many times causing irreversible damage. When the body’s tissues are attacked, the body responds by producing inflammation and abnormal growth in the synovium. The synovium is the special membrane that lines each joint. The process whereby the synovium becomes inflamed is referred to as synovitis. Synovitius is one of the primary distinguishing features of rheumatoid arthritis. Synovitis is responsible for many of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. When synovitis continues to expand around the joint, it can threaten the integrity of the surrounding tissues, joint, and cartilage. Ligaments, nerves, tendons, and blood vessels may all be adversely affected.
The joints that are most commonly affected by rheumatoid arthritis include some of the body’s smaller joints, including those of the writs, hands, feet, ankles, knees, and elbows. As can be imagined, rheumatoid arthritis sufferers experience a variety of symptoms that can lead to severe discomfort and even debilitating. Normal, routine activities such as walking, washing, dressing, cooking, cleaning, working, and even using the restroom can become difficult to achieve. As the condition worsens, many individuals with rheumatoid arthritis find that they are no longer to work. Many times, this occurs as early as ten years after the initial diagnosis.
Perhaps not surprisingly, people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis experience a shorter life expectancy than the general public. Of course, many people with rheumatoid arthritis live long lives, since the disease is not inherently fatal. However, severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis can be the cause for several life-threatening diseases. Since rheumatoid arthritis is essentially an autoimmune disease, many vital tissues or organs can be affected throughout the course of the disease. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the whole body. It is systematic, meaning that it can affect not just the joints, but other parts of the body as well. This can make rheumatoid arthritis difficult to treat. Fortunately, new treatments are being developed that can help rheumatoid arthritis sufferers cope on a day-to-day basis.