Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is one of the most common forms of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic illness that is characterized mostly by the inflammation of the lining surrounding joints. This lining is called synovium. Rheumatoid arthritis can often lead to long term joint damage, thus leading to:
* chronic pain * loss of function * disability
The following paragraphs will discuss rheumatoid arthritis, as well as how it can progress.
The Nature of Rheumatoid Arthritis
As stated before, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease. What this means is it may never go away entirely, even with proper treatment. Some people who suffer with rheumatoid arthritis can find treatment methods that provide them with temporary relief of the symptoms, however, the disease is never cured.
Progression of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis often progresses in three stages. In the first stage, the synovial lining located where the joint meets the bone end may begin to swell. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and even redness around the joint area. The swelling of the synovium is often caused by an immune system reaction. It is still unknown what can trigger the immune system reaction, which leads to the lymphocytes to expel chemical messengers to the affected joints. These messengers are called cytokines.
The second stage of rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the synovial lining around the affected joints begins to thicken. This is caused by rapid cell division known as pannus. This stage of rheumatoid arthritis can lead to more pain for the patient suffering with this disease.
During the third and final stage, when the synovium has thickened, the swollen cells around the joint area release enzymes. The enzymes actually contain and release chemicals that can do harm to bone and cartilage tissues, that make up a joint. After the bone and cartilage are attacked, the joint often loses its alignment and shape, resulting in even more pain, and sometimes loss of movement.
On top of being considered a chronic disease, rheumatoid arthritis can also be considered a systemic disease. What this means is that rheumatoid arthritis can also affect other organs in your body, such as:
* skin * blood vessels * lungs * heart
It is very important to see a doctor if you think you may be suffering with rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis
In order to effectively treat and combat rheumatoid arthritis, it is crucial to get an early diagnosis. Many research studies have concluded that aggressive treatment in early stages of rheumatoid arthritis can be extremely effective in slowing down the progression. While it can not be cured, most treatment approaches to rheumatoid arthritis are to reduce the pain, and if possible, slow down the progression.
In order to be properly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, one must see a doctor so he can run a battery of tests. These tests can include x-rays, blood tests, as well as urine tests. These tests are necessary so that the doctor can diagnose you with the correct type of arthritis you may have. He will look for joint inflammation, as well as check the skin for rheumatoid nodules, which is a common sign of rheumatoid arthritis.