Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the major autoimmune conditions which is primarily associated with inflammatory arthritis, due to the immune system attacking the body's own healthy tissues causing inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissue, leading to destruction and deformity. RA affects mostly middle aged women though it is also noted in the young (Juvenile RA) and males. RA affects the synovium or the lining of the joints in the hands, fingers, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, and feet, and causes painful swelling associated with warmth, and notable morning stiffness which tends to last longer than an hour. Over time, the inflammation causes erosion which leads to deformities.
Beyond the joint and synovial involvement, RA can affect the whole body, including causing fatigue, fever, skin conditions and production of dermal nodules, vasculitis and cardiac complications, lung fibrosis or nodules, kidney function impairment, dryness of the eyes or thinning of the eye tissue, neurological as noted with peripheral neuropathies due to nerve compression and damage by the surrounding tissues swelling and inflammation. RA tends to be a lifelong condition which can flare up and or go in to remission. Close monitoring of RA patients is needed, and though no known cure has been developed, there has been a tremendous increase in the therapeutic options for RA. The consensus among the rheumatology community is that early and aggressive treatment of RA helps prevent the classic deformities that have charecterized this disease in the past.