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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) facts
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause chronic inflammation of the joints and other areas of the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and signs include
joint pain in the feet, hands, and knees,
loss of joint function,
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease characterized by periods of disease flares and remissions.
In rheumatoid arthritis, multiple joints are usually, but not always, affected in a symmetrical pattern.
Chronic inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent joint destruction and deformity.
Damage to joints can occur early and does not always correlate with the severity of RA symptoms.
The "rheumatoid factor" is an antibody that can be found in the blood of 80% of people with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid factor is detected in a simple blood test. Possible risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis include genetic background, smoking, silica inhalation, periodontal disease, and microbes in the bowels (gut bacteria).
There is no cure for RA. The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis optimally involves a combination of patient education, rest and exercise, joint protection, medications, and occasionally surgery.
Medications used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis include NSAIDs, DMARDs, TNF alpha inhibitors, IL-6 inhibitors, T-cell activation inhibitors, B-cell depletors, JAK inhibitors, immunosuppressants, and steroids.
Early RA treatment results in a better prognosis.
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of all ages. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known.
Picture of hands affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Notice the joint deformity in the fingers; Image provided by Getty Images