Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder, is a chronic inflammatory disorder that typically affects the small joints in your hands and feet. Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. In addition to causing joint problems, RA sometimes can affect other organs of the body — such as the skin, eyes, lungs and blood vessels. 1.6 million people in the United States suffer from this disease.
The severity of the disease can vary from person to person. Symptoms can change from day to day. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:
- Tender, warm, swollen joints
- Morning stiffness that may last for hours
- Firm bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms (rheumatoid nodules)
- Fatigue, fever and weight loss
There is no cure for RA, but there are a number of medications available to help ease symptoms, reduce inflammation, and slow the progression of the disease. No one drug works for everyone but many people find treatments that are very effective. The goal of treatment is remission, a state when inflammation is gone or is very low.