Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an invisible disease. Chances are you've heard of RA, and perhaps you know something about this condition.
But do you know which of your neighbors and co-workers suffer from RA?
Those who are not completely disabled may not seem to have RA. They just aren't ... living large.
Maybe they don't get involved in many activities. They might look like couch potatoes who don't feel like doing much. This is what makes RA an invisible disease.
The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unfortunately also still invisible.
Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune disease. This means the immune system which defends against foreign substances has also turned against healthy tissue. In effect the body is attacking itself.
Often the first symptoms of RA are fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, swollen glands and an overall weakness. Joint pain usually comes later.
The most commonly affected areas are the fingers and wrists, and the feet, ankles and knees. Joints may become swollen and lose their range of motion. They can become deformed over time.
Breathing can become painful. Eyes may burn and itch, and give off a discharge. The hands and feet may become numb or tingling, or may experience burning.
The progression of rheumatoid arthritis will vary from one person to the next. Some, with the anti-CCP antibody rheumatoid factor or with subcutaneous nodules, may be hit with a more severe version of RA than others. The younger the patient was when the illness appeared, the more aggressive the case of RA might become.
For some, after a year or two, the joints may begin to deteriorate. Approximately 10 percent of people with RA will end up disabled.
Some people with rheumatoid arthritis will experience remission, with the signs of inflammation disappearing.
According to the March issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism, The American College of Rheumatology has formulated two new provisonal definitions of rheumatoid arthritis remission for use in future clinical trials.
Patients with RA would qualify for a clinical trial if they meet one of two definitions of remission: