Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, which means your body’s immune system, instead of protecting your health by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and disease, mistakenly attacks your joints. The abnormal immune response causes pain, inflammation, stiffness, and loss of movement in the joints. More specifically, the tissues that line the joints are affected and may cause bone and cartilage damage that weakens the muscles and tendons that support the joints. If left untreated, other issues such as anemia (low iron), dry eyes or mouth, and problems with the heart and lungs may arise.
RA is distinctive from other types of arthritis as it usually manifests in a symmetrical pattern; for example, if one knee is affected, the other knee is usually involved as well. The disease most often affects wrist and finger joints, but can present in any joint of the body. The severity of RA can vary from mild to severe, depending on the individual. Individuals suffering from RA may experience flares and periods of remission. More severe forms can last for many years or a lifetime.
Who Gets Rheumatoid Arthritis
Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from RA. Although RA can occur at any age, it usually begins between the ages of 30 and 60. The disease occurs in all races and ethnic groups, although it is two to three times more common in women than in men.Click here for additional information.