Rheumatoid arthritis

Alternative Names

RA; Arthritis – rheumatoid

Definition of Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term disease that leads to inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. It can also affect other organs.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of RA is unknown. It is considered an autoimmune disease. The body’s immune system normally fights off foreign substances, like viruses. But in an autoimmune disease, the immune system confuses healthy tissue for foreign substances. As a result, the body attacks itself.

Symptoms

The disease often begins slowly, with symptoms that are seen in many other illnesses:

Signs and tests

A specific blood test is available for diagnosing RA and distinguishing it from other types of arthritis. It is called the anti-CCP antibody test. Other tests that may be done include:

Treatment

RA usually requires lifelong treatment, including medications, physical therapy, exercise, education, and possibly surgery. Early, aggressive treatment for RA can delay joint destruction.

Expectations (prognosis)

The course of rheumatoid arthritis differs from person to person. For some patients, the disease becomes less aggressive over time and symptoms may improve.

Review

Mark James Borigini, MD, Rheumatologist in the Washington, DC Metro area. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 2/7/2010

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Rheumatoid arthritis

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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