Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the most common autoimmune diseases that cause chronic inflammation that affects the joints in your hands and feet. Autoimmune diseases usually occur when the body’s immune system attacks the body’s tissues. The immune system contains cells and antibodies that are designed to eliminate any invaders of the body. People who suffer from autoimmune diseases have their immune system working against them, targeting their own body tissues, where they can be associated with inflammation.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, resulting in painful swelling that can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity. Although rheumatoid arthritis normally causes joint problems, it can also affect other organs of the body such as the skin, eyes, lungs, and blood vessels. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, but it is mostly common after the age of 40. This type of disorder is much more common in women.
RA symptoms are more or less present depending on the tissue inflammation. The disease is normally active when body tissues are inflamed. If the tissue inflammation subsides, the disease becomes inactive. When the disease is active, your body might experience symptoms such as fatigue, loss of energy and lack of appetite, low-grade fever. You might experience muscle and joint stiffness, especially in the morning or after a period of inactivity. Also, when the disease is active, your joints might become warm, swollen, tender, and painful because the lining tissues become inflamed and produce too much synovial fluid.
Early stages of rheumatoid arthritis tend to affect your smaller joints first, more exactly the joints that attach your fingers to your hands and your toes to your feet. If the disease progresses, the symptoms will start spreading to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders. Usually, symptoms tend to occur in the same joints, on both sides of the body. The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may vary in severity. RA can cause joints to deform and shift out of place over time.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system starts attacking the lining of the membranes that surround your joints, also called the synovium, creating inflammation. The resulted inflammation thickens the synovium, which can further result in a destruction of the cartilage and bone within the joint. This makes the tendons and ligaments that hold the joints together to weaken and stretch, causing the joint to gradually lose its shape and alignment.
The causes or rheumatoid arthritis are yet unknown, although studies have shown that a genetic component might be the cause. Your genes don’t actually cause rheumatoid arthritis, but they can make you susceptible to certain environmental factors such as various types of infections with certain viruses and bacteria that may be responsible for triggering the disease.
If you feel any of the symptoms of RA you should consult your family doctor and after that you should go see a rheumatologist for a more thorough evaluation.