How does Rheumatoid arthritis affect the joints?

HealthyWomen
Administration
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is considered an autoimmune disease. Such diseases are characterized by an immune-system attack on the body's healthy tissues. In RA, white blood cells travel to the synovium (the membranes that surround joints) and cause inflammation, or synovitis. The ensuing warmth, redness, swelling, and pain are typical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which usually affects the wrists, fingers, knees, feet, and ankles.

The continuous inflammation associated with RA gradually destroys cartilage, which coats the end of the bones. This narrows the joint space and eventually damages bone. The surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support and stabilize the joint also become weak and unable to work normally.
Rachel Rohde, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Rheumatoid arthritis affects cells that line and normally lubricate the joints (synovium). This systemic condition can affect multiple joints all over your body. Your synovium becomes inflamed and erodes, or “eats away” cartilage and bone, stretching soft tissues, causing the joints to be unstable and your fingers or hands to appear deformed. Tendons also can rupture, or tear, with minimal trauma. Rheumatoid arthritis of the hand is most common in the wrist and finger knuckles (metacarpophalangeal and proximal interphalangeal joints).

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you have rheumatoid arthritis (or RA), you have painful swelling in hands, fingers, wrists - and stiffness that makes everyday living difficult. RA is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system attacks the tissues...

. RA is more common among women than men. Some have only one brief episode, while others have episodes off and on throughout their lives. It's important to consult with a rheumatologist right away when you develop symptoms, as early treatment can help keep RA under control.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.