Rheumatoid Arthritis Ra

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common form of arthritis and one of the most common types of connective tissue disorders. Over two million Americans live with RA. Out of this number, one and a half million are women: rheumatoid arthritis affects three times as many women as men. Worldwide, an estimated one out of every hundred people suffers from this often-debilitating condition.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an inflammation of the synovium — the membrane that lines the joints. This inflammation causes the joint lining to thicken and produce excessive amounts of synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is a lubricant that cushions and protects the joints during movement. Tissue inflammation and synovial fluid build-up cause joint pain, stiffness and swelling. The skin over affected joints may also appear red.

The inflamed synovium produces enzymes that can travel through the synovial fluid and attack bone and cartilage. Unlike other forms of arthritis, the effects of RA are not limited to the joints, and many other problems may arise throughout the body. Over time, joint pain worsens, and joints may become deformed. Early treatment can slow the degenerative process and medications can provide some pain relief.

Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: How Do They Differ?

Although often confused with each other, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are very different forms of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis damage is caused by inflammation and enzyme action. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between bones breaks down, allowing the bones to rub against one another. This “wear and tear” causes joint deterioration and pain. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, which can affect internal organs, osteoarthritis is confined to the joints.

Other differences exist between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While sufferers of both conditions experience joint pain, people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis will have swollen and red joints. Furthermore, people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis experience a certain degree of symmetry — if they experience joint pain in one hand, similar pain can be felt in the other.

Getting the Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis

These are the latest statistics on RA:

  • Approximately 2.1 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis does not only affect adults; children are susceptible as well.
  • Approximately 70 percent of people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis are women.
  • While women are at higher risk for rheumatoid arthritis, symptoms are more severe in men.
  • The onset of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms usually occurs between the ages of 30 and 50.