Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. In rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system - which normally helps protect your body from infection and disease - starts attacking your joint tissues.
Anyone can get rheumatoid arthritis. The disease most often begins in middle age or later. But it can occur at any age. Even children
sometimes get a similar form of arthritis. Some types of arthritis affect one joint at a time, but rheumatoid arthritis can affect your whole body.
“The joint swelling in rheumatoid arthritis is squishy, and very different from the hard bony enlargement of the finger joints that is sometime present in osteoarthritis,” Your joints may appear red and feel warm. Pain and stiffness may be worse after you wake up or have been resting for a long time. Over time, your immune system damages the tough, flexible tissue (cartilage) that lines joints. This damage can be severe and deform your joints.
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes rheumatoid arthritis. What scientists do know is that the damage is caused by the immune system gone awry. The body’s defense system mistakenly attacks the membrane that lines joints, such as in the wrists, fingers, and toes. Joints in the neck, knees, hips, ankles, and elsewhere can also be affected.
There’s no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. But there are effective treatments. Treatment can relieve pain, reduce joint stiffness and swelling, and prevent further joint damage.
There are many different classes of drugs available. Many of the drugs, like NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and steroids, work by reducing inflammation. Such drugs may be used in combination with others that have been shown to slow joint destruction.
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect virtually every area of your life, from work to relationships. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, there are many things you can do to help maintain your lifestyle and keep a positive outlook. Exercise helps keep your muscles healthy and strong, preserve joint mobility, and maintain flexibility. Rest helps to reduce joint inflammation, pain, and fatigue. Ask your doctor how best to balance exercise and rest for your situation.