Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be defined as a multisystem chronic disease of unknown origin. There is an array of systemic expression; the main distinguishing feature of rheumatoid arthritis is chronic inflammatory synovitis, typically symmetrically involving peripheral joints.
The likely influence of inflammation of the synovium leading to damage of the articular cartilage and erosion of the involving bones and consequent changes in the integrity of the joint is the characteristic of the disease. RA also involves the tissues around the joint as well as different organs in our body.
Characteristically, Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, which occurs when the body's own defense mechanism wrongly interprets some bodily character and mistakenly attacks them.
The immune system is a multifaceted association of different protective cells and antibodies programmed normally to 'seek and destroy' the intruders into our body. The main role playing of the immune system occurs when an infective agent invades our system.
Patients having deranged immunity or autoimmune disorder produce antibodies (some proteins that have a killer potentiality towards intruders) in the blood that targets their own body parts, leading to inflammation. As rheumatoid arthritis can affect numerous other organs in our body, it is referred as a systemic disease.
The word "Rheumatoid" is coined from the Greek word "Rheumatos" which means 'Flowing' and the suffix "oid" refers to 'resembling'. The word "Arthritis" means 'inflammation of a joint'. So, together they mean 'inflammation of a joint that is flowing in nature'. In spite of its harsh potential, the course of the disease can vary a lot.
Some patients can experience a mere oligoarticular ailment (involving a single joint) of short duration with minimal or no joint damage, while others may suffer from a persistent progressive polyarthritis with striking functional impairment.
Rheumatoid arthritis has very common symptoms [http://www.arthritissymptoms.org/common-symptoms-for-rheumatoid-arthritis.htm] and according to a survey, it has affected more than two million people in the United States.
The disease is almost three times more common in women than in men and affects people of all races uniformly. The onset of the disease can be at any age, but the usual point of time is after forty years of age. Being a genetically determined disease,
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect multiple members in the same family. As for example, severe RA is noticed in approximately four times the usual rate among the first degree relatives of persons suffering from the disease in conjunction with presence of autoantibody - the Rheumatic factor- more than 10% of patients with RA will have an affected first degree relative.
In addition, monozygotic twins are at least four times more likely to develop RA than dizygotic twins. This is to be noted that, the highest risk of association id noted in twins who possess two HLA-DRB1 alleles (a type of genes) which is identified to be closely linked with RA. Genetic predisposing factors do not entirely account for the occurrence of RA, pointing towards some other factors. Environmental factors have a role playing action in the development of RA.
This is highlighted by epidemiological studies conducted in AFRICA, that indicated the role of urbanization and climate have a major impact over the occurrence and severity of RA.