Arthritis is known as the painful inflammation and stiffness of joints in the body. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, painful, autoimmune disease of the joint that destroys, deforms, and disables movement of joints altogether. It is caused by the infection in the immune system. That is, the anti-bodies attack their own tissues, mistaking them for foreign bodies. It may gradually affect other organs of the body, too. Hence, it is known as autoimmune disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis can make a healthy individual a life-long patient at any age. It may be a genetic or non-genetic disease. It appears in several stages. That is, initially a patient may feel only pain caused by the inflamed joints. Gradually, the affected lining of the joints, called synovial lining, starts thickening. When the condition becomes severe, the inflamed joint and surrounding area release a fluid or enzyme that destroys the flexible soft tissues, the cartilages, and bones. This changes the original shape of the joints. The patient finds this stage very painful. He or she is left with stiff and deformed joints and is literally unable to move. The small things that a person once did with ease are no longer possible for them. For instance, lifting a pen is virtually a painful act.
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint. But studies report that it begins from smaller joints such as the joints in the fingers. It has also been found that it affects the joints simultaneously. For instance, an individual complaining of pain in the wrist experiences it in both left and right wrists.
The pain is a very common feature. But if the pain is a prolonged one and is followed by stiffness, it is a matter of concern. Some of the symptoms identified with rheumatoid arthritis include pain and stiffness upon waking and pain after prolonged rest. Additionally, individuals may also face difficulty in standing up after being seated or lying down in bed for a long time. They might have symptoms of flu and weakness or fatigue. The individuals may lose weight because of low appetite, turn anemic, and often may be depressed and stressed. They are found to have sweaty palms and feet, and lesser flexibility in moving. In some persons, skin ulcers and visible lumps or rheumatoid nodules are also reported. As such, the health of the individual declines and it is necessary to take support from others for daily activities.
Since rheumatoid arthritis also affects organs in acute stages, the patients can become anemic (low in red blood cells), develop dry mouth and eyes, and have inflamed spleen and lining in the lungs. In some persons, the disease flares up after a prolonged time.