Definition of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammation that can affect many joints and even other systems of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis belongs to a group of diseases called autoimmune disorders, in which the body directly attacks itself or produces antibodies against its own tissues.
What is going on in the body?
In a person with rheumatoid arthritis produces, the immune system attacks his or her own tissues, for unknown reasons.
Antibodies are protein molecules that the body uses to fight infection. These antibodies are produced by the immune system in response to a trigger called an antigen. This trigger is normally a substance that the body recognizes as “foreign.” These foreign substances include things like bacteria and viruses.
In rheumatoid arthritis, for reasons unknown, the body’s immune system malfunctions and begins producing antibodies against its own tissues. This causes the body’s immune system to attack its own joints, causing inflammation, swelling and pain. Chronic inflammation of the synovial membrane lining the joint causes destruction of cartilage and bone within the joint.
Sometimes this form of arthritis is mild, but 70% of people who have it develop chronic problems, and 15% have severe crippling disease.
Young children can have a form called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.