What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic (long-term) autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system, which is designed to protect your body and attack diseases, attacks your body instead. RA attacks both the cartilage and the bones within your joints and causes permanent damage. RA typically affects the smaller joints first, like those in the hands, wrists, elbows and feet. Later, RA may spread to larger joints, such as knees and hips.
Pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of joint function are common symptoms of RA. These symptoms occur during periods known as flares. As the disease progresses, muscles and tendons become weak and deformities may develop. All these things can make daily activities more challenging.
There is still no cure for RA, but new and more targeted treatment options have become available. Early and aggressive treatment has allowed many patients to slow the progression of the disease. The right medicine therapy can help you reduce pain and damage, remain active and live a full life.
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