Monday, November 5, 2007

What is rheumatoid (room-a-toid) arthritis?

RA is an autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system attacks other parts of your body.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes redness, pain, swelling or a hot (or warm) feeling in the lining of a joint, the place where 2 or more bones come together.
This redness, pain, swelling and heat around the joint is called inflammation.
The inflammation may also affect other internal organs, such as the eyes, lungs, or heart.
RA can affect any joint, but the most common places are the hands or feet.

The body’s immune system attacks healthy joints. This causes inflammation in the lining of the joints. It can also affect other parts of the body, such as the eyes, lungs or heart. The inflammation can be painful. It can lead to permanent damage if the disease is not treated and controlled.

Joint damage can occur even in cases where the pain is not severe. It can happen even in the early stages of the disease. For many people with RA, damage has shown up on X-rays of the hands and feet within two years of the onset of the disease. But it may be too late to fix by the time X-rays discover the problem. One study found that damage got worse more quickly during the first two years, and 75 per cent of all damage happened in the first five years.

Severe damage can lead to permanent joint deformity and disability. It can cause so much pain and swelling that you may have difficulty walking. You may have trouble using your hands for routine activities, such as dressing and cooking.

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