Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic systemic or whole body disorder particularly affecting the synovial joints. It may however affect major organs and tissues as well. The root cause of the disorder is still unknown, but it has been noticed by experts that autoimmunity plays a leading role in the progression and development of the disorder. Thus it is often grouped as an autoimmune disorder. When rheumatoid attacks a synovial joint, it actually causes inflammation of the synovium, the membrane secreting synovial fluid. This further causes the development of pannus in the synovium, and enlargement of synovial cells, thereby leading to excess production of synovial fluids.
As the disease progresses, total damage of articular cartilage and ankylosis of joints occur. Apart from synovial joints, rheumatoid may inflict organs like kidney, lungs, heart and blood vessels, also the subcutaneous tissue under skin. It should be checked at the inception, or else it may lead to total loss of mobility or permanent disability. It is common among youths, and females are more attacked by rheumatoid than men. Smaller joints like fingers, wrists, cervical spine etc generally fall prey to rheumatoid arthritis, and the attack of the disorder takes place in a symmetrical pattern. The pain associated with rheumatoid worsens early in the morning just after waking up from sleep, and restricts activity for quite some time.
The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is a subject of research all over the world. Researchers have suspected heredity or genes to be a factor promoting the disease. Also it has been assumed that any infection due to bacteria, virus or fungi, or any other environmental factor like smoking tobacco serves as a stimulant or catalyst making the immune system hyperactive. The hyperactive immune system gets misdirected, and invades the body's own healthy tissues, thereby causing inflammation in the affected area.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
1. Excruciating muscle and joint ache
2. Swelling of joints
3. Stiffness of joints
4. Redness of skin around the affected joint
5. Joint tenderness
6. Low grade fever
8. Loss of appetite
10. Hoarseness of voice
11. Shortness of breathing
12. Chest pain
13. Dryness in mouth
14. Lumps under skin or rheumatoid nodules
Timely aggressive diagnosis of the disorder is necessary. It may be done through blood tests such as rheumatoid factor test, X-rays.
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