Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Rheumatoid arthritis affects approximately one out of every 100 people in the United States, occurring more frequently in older women than in other population groups. The autoimmune disorder develops when the body’s immune system wrongly targets its own joints, creating an inflammatory response and often severe pain, which is usually localized in the small joints. Different from osteoarthritis, RA affects the joints’ inner lining. This causes swelling that can wear down the supporting bone structure and create malformations in the joints.
Researchers have not yet identified a definitive cause for rheumatoid arthritis, although a combination of environmental and genetic factors is likely responsible. They have pinpointed certain genetic markers associated with chronic inflammation and an overly active engagement of the immune system as exhibiting a tenfold potential to lead to the development of RA. Yet the presence of these genes does not necessarily mean that a person will display symptoms, and their absence cannot give assurance that he or she will never develop the condition.
In addition to its focus on attacking the joints, RA can occasionally affect other areas of the body, such as the eyes, skin, blood vessels, and respiratory system. Treatments for RA concentrate on alleviating pain and lessening the potential for permanent damage to the joints.