Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system — which normally protects its health by attacking foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses — mistakenly attacks the joints. This creates inflammation that can cause the tissue that lines the inside of joints (the synovium) to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joints. Synovium is responsible for making a fluid that lubricates joints and helps them move smoothly.
If inflammation goes unchecked, it can damage cartilage, the elastic tissue that covers the ends of boins in a joint, as well as the bones themselves. Over a period of time, theres a loss of cartilage, and the joint spacing between the bones can become smaller. Joints can become loose, unstable, painful and lose their mobility. Joint deformity can also happen. In addition, joint damage can’t be reveresed, and it can happen early, doctors recommend early diagnosis and aggressive treatment to control RA.
RA most commonly affects the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles. The joint effect is usually symmetrical. That means if one knee or hand if affected, usually the other one is, too. Due to RA affecting body systems, such as cardiovascular or respiratory systems, it’s called a systemic disease. Systemic means “entire body”.