Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints. It causes chronic inflammation that leads to pain, swelling, and stiffness. Over time, RA can damage bones and joints leading to disability.

RA usually affects joints on both sides of the body equally, meaning if a joint on one side is affected, the same joint on the opposite side is affected. Wrists, fingers, knees, feet, and ankles, and elbows are most often affected. RA can also affect other organs, and people who have RA are at higher risk for other diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

RA is a chronic disease, meaning it lasts a long time and can get worse. It is important that people with RA work closely with their doctor to find a treatment plan that lessens symptoms and joint damage.

There is no cure for RA. But taking medication and making lifestyle changes can help you manage the disease. Alternative and complementary therapies can also help relieve symptoms, but only conventional medications halt the progression of the disease and stop further joint damage. In some cases, medications can help put RA into remission and symptoms may go away completely.

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Review Date: 2/2/2016  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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