I have realized that most people have no idea what Rheumatoid arthritis really is. They hear the word “Arthritis” and that is where it ends. They think of their grandmothers with a few achy joints, and leave it at that. This is NOT the case. At all!! It is so much more than that, and though I know I have been overwhelming my feed with info, I want the chance to educate those who are interested in knowing what I am going through, and what is actually going on with me. Why I miss work, hardly ever attend social gatherings, and seem completely out of it some days. I wish I had something simple that some rest and medication would fix, and I would be fine. Back to normal; but I don’t. Here is what is going on inside my body. I am not shady. I am not irresponsible. I am sick.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that results in a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks flexible (synovial) joints. It can be a disabling and painful condition, which can lead to substantial loss of functioning and mobility if not adequately treated.

The process involves an inflammatory response of the capsule around the joints (synovium) secondary to swelling (turgescence) of synovial cells, excess synovial fluid, and the development of fibrous tissue (pannus) in the synovium. The pathology of the disease process often leads to the destruction of articular cartilage and ankylosis (fusion) of the joints. RA can also produce diffuse inflammation in the lungs, the membrane around the heart (pericardium), the membranes of the lung (pleura), and white of the eye (sclera), and also nodular lesions, most common in subcutaneous tissue. Although the cause of RA is unknown, autoimmunity plays a big part, and RA is a systemic autoimmune disease. It is a clinical diagnosis made on the basis of symptoms, physical exam, radiographs (X-rays) and labs.

Treatments are pharmacological and non-pharmalogical. Non-pharmacological treatment includes physical therapy, orthoses, occupational therapy and nutritional therapy but these don’t stop the progression of joint destruction. Analgesia (painkillers) and anti-inflammatory drugs, including steroids, suppress symptoms, but don’t stop the progression of joint destruction either. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) slow or halt the progress of the disease. The newer biologics are DMARDs. The evidence for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments for RA related pain is weak, with the lack of high quality evidence leading to the conclusions that their use is currently not “supported” by the evidence nor proved to be of benefit.

About 0.6% of the United States adult population has RA, women two to three times as often as men. Onset is most frequent during middle age, but people of any age can be affected.

The name is based on the term “rheumatic fever”, an illness which includes joint pain and is derived from the Greek word ῥεύμα-rheuma (nom.), ῥεύματος-rheumatos (gen.) (“flow, current”). The suffix -oid (“resembling”) gives the translation as joint inflammation that resembles rheumatic fever. The first recognized description of RA was made in 1800 by Dr. Augustin Jacob Landré-Beauvais (1772–1840) of Paris.


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  1. Thank you so much for educating about RA! I don’t have it but living on chemo has given my body some variant of arthritis (although my current chemo, cytoxan, disappeared it in under 24 hours!) Anyway, the more we educate, the more people can be compassionate.

    Marcy Westerling

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