Video Q & A:

RA 101


What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Expert:   Linda Russell, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery »

Rheumatoid arthritis is a potentially debilitating autoimmune condition. But what does that even mean, exactly? Get all the basics in this video.

Transcript: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that affects the lining of your joints, leading to painful swelling that can eventually result in joint deformity and bone erosion. Rheumatoid arthritis can NOT be cured, but current treatment options can help you manage this condition. In rheumatoid arthritis the immune system malfunctions and ATTACKS healthy cells in the lining of your joints. That attack causes inflammation and pain in joints and surrounding tissue. It’s different than osteoarthritis, where joint inflammation is often the result of injury and wear and tear. While we don’t know exactly what CAUSES rheumatoid arthritis, genetics may play a role, making people sensitive to the infections, viruses and bacteria that may TRIGGER the immune system to start attacking healthy cells. Additionally, rheumatoid arthritis can develop at any age, but is most likely to occur in middle age and to affect women. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can include symmetrical joint pain, STIFFNESS, and fatigue in the smaller joints of the fingers and toes. Once the condition progresses these symptoms can SPREAD to larger joints, such as the knees, elbows and hips. The pain USUALLY occurs in the same areas on each side of the body, and the stiffness is often WORSE in the morning after you wake up and persists for more than an hour upon waking. Additional symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include NUMBNESS, tingling and burning of the hands and feet. Dry eyes and mouth and nodules under the skin MAY indicate that RA has progressed. Over time, the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis can cause joint deformity and bone erosion, so it’s important to treat this disease EARLY to prevent joint damage and CONTROL symptoms. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR if you’re experiencing pain or stiffness in your hands or feet. Rheumatoid arthritis can be DIFFICULT to diagnose but certain blood tests, ultrasound or x-ray exams can help with diagnosis. While this disease isn’t curable, the right medications combined with non-drug therapies can ease pain and prevent joint damage. For more information on rheumatoid arthritis, check out the other videos in this series. More »

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