Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic swelling of the joints. While irritation of the tissue around the joints and inflammatory arthritis are characteristic features of rheumatoid arthritis, the disease also causes injury and inflammation in other organs in the body. As it affects numerous other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is at times called rheumatoid disease.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
- It is suspected that certain factors or infections in the environment may trigger the activation of the immune system in vulnerable individuals. This misdirected immune system then attacks the own tissues of the body. This leads to irritation in the joints and at times in a range of organs of the body, such as the eyes or lungs.
- The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known. Although infectious agents for instance fungi, bacteria, and viruses have long been suspected, none has been proven as the cause.
- It is believed that the propensity to develop rheumatoid arthritis may be hereditarily inherited. Certain genes have been identified that add to the risk for rheumatoid arthritis.
Signs & Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may vary, based on the degree of tissue inflammation. When body tissues are swollen, the disease is active. When tissue inflammation subsides, the disease is inactive
When the disease is active the symptoms can comprise:
- Muscle & joint stiffness & aches especially in the mornings & after periods of inactivity.
- In severe cases, the joints become red, swollen & tender.
- Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects multiple joints in a regular pattern.
- Loss of energy & lack of appetite
- Chronic inflammation causes damage to body tissues, such as bone and cartilage.
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