Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic and systematic disorder that principally affects the joints leading to an inflammatory synovistis. This condition can lead to the destruction of the articular cartilage and ankylosis of the joints. Apart from the joints, this disorder can also affect body tissues and organs.
This condition can also produce diffuse inflammation in the lungs, the pericardium, the pleura and the sclera. Although the exact causes of this disease are yet to be identified, autoimmunity is said to be a major contributor to the progression of the disease. No age is immune to this disease although the onset is often between the ages of 40 and 50.
Signs of rheumatoid arthritis include inflammation and swelling of the affected joints. The joints will also feel warm, painful and stiff especially in the morning or after a prolonged period of inactivity. Increased stiffness particularly early in the morning is a prominent feature of the inflammatory disease and may last for more than an hour. Gentle movements normally help to relieve the symptoms in the early stages of the disease. This disorder normally affects the joints in a fairly symmetrical fashion.
Diagnosis of this condition is chiefly on signs and symptoms but also blood tests and x-rays can be used. Other medical imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound can also be used during diagnosis. Diagnosis and management of this disease is done by a rheumatologist; an expert in the diseases of joints and connective tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis is treated using anti-rheumatic medication. Cortisone therapy can also help to relieve the symptoms but may not effective for long term use.