Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the lining of joints and surrounding tissues, primarily in a person’s hands or feet. This inflammation is felt through a painful swelling that can result in a more serious bone erosion and joint deformity. Besides attacking the joints, rheumatoid arthritis can also affect a person’s skin, eyes, lungs, and blood vessels.
About 1.5 million people suffer from rheumatoid arthritis in the United States. This disorder is most commonly found in people past the age of 40, primarily women. Treatment is provided to help control the symptoms and to prevent further joint damage.
Symptoms vary per individual but some common symptoms include fatigue, fever, weight loss, swollen joints, bumps underneath the skin of the arm, and morning stiffness. Smaller joints usually are affected first followed by the arthritis spreading to bigger joints such as knees, hips, and shoulders.
People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis may experience sudden increases in symptoms, called flares, which can last days or months. While there is no cure, treatment is important in preventing joint destruction, organ damage, and the progression of the disease.