What is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can get worse over time
Normally, the immune system protects the body from bacteria, viruses, and germs. In an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues and cells. The exact cause is not known. In RA, the immune system mostly attacks the smaller joints of the hands and feet. The membrane surrounding the joint becomes swollen and inflamed. This causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and potential joint damage.
RA is a progressive disease. This means the pain, stiffness, and swelling can get worse over time. While there is currently no cure, there are medicines that can help relieve the symptoms and help you perform everyday activities with less difficulty.
Who is affected by rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis affects the same joints on both sides of the body
RA typically occurs in a symmetrical fashion, so if a joint on the right side of the body is inflamed, the left one will likely be too. RA can occur in any joint, but usually starts in the smaller joints in your fingers, hands, wrists, and feet.
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may include:
- Joint pain
- Tender, warm, swollen joints
- Morning stiffness lasting hours
The specific joints affected by RA, as well as the frequency and severity of symptoms, can vary from one person to another. For many, the stiffness from RA is worse in the morning and after periods of inactivity.
Find a rheumatologist
Finding a rheumatologist may be the first step in taking control of your condition. Our rheumatologist locator can help you find and contact a rheumatologist in your area. To get started, enter your city/state or your ZIP code and click the “Search” button.
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