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05/31/2011 04:18 AM

Four Key Characteristics of RA

kvnj
kvnj  
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Four Key Characteristics of Rheumatoid Arthritis

In this excerpt from our Special Report on Treating and Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis, rheumatologist Dr. Joan Bathon explains the four distinguishing characteristics of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is autoimmune, inflammatory, chronic and systemic (meaning that it affects the whole body).

Autoimmune. This term describes an immune-system attack that the body launches upon itself. For some unknown reason, the immune system becomes "confused" and begins to interpret molecular signals from normal body tissues as if they are coming from harmful infectious bacteria or viruses. In rheumatoid arthritis, the chief target of this attack is the synovial membrane, the lining of the joints that connect parts of the skeleton.

Inflammatory. When the white blood cells of the immune system attack the synovial membrane, they begin to release the same poisonous substances that kill bacteria and viruses during an infection. The result is a series of chemical changes that produce the same local symptoms that occur with an infection: the combination of heat, swelling, pain and redness known as inflammation.

Chronic. Like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease; the autoimmune attacks can continue indefinitely. But rheumatoid arthritis is more crippling than osteoarthritis. As time goes on, continued inflammation causes the synovial membrane to thicken. An area of inflammatory cells (a pannus) often starts to form at the point where the synovial membrane joins the cartilage.

Continued release of enzymes and growth factors by the white blood cells, along with growth of the pannus, can erode cartilage, tendons, ligaments and even bones within the joint capsule. As rheumatoid arthritis progresses, the ever-growing pannus can further limit joint motion. Inflammation of tissues surrounding the joint may eventually cause permanent joint damage and deformities.

Systemic. The effects of rheumatoid arthritis are not limited to the joints; they can have consequences throughout the entire body. As a result, people who have rheumatoid arthritis are frequently fatigued, often lose their appetite and may run a low fever and feel generally unwell, as if they have the flu. Without proper treatment, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to significant disability and premature death.

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05/31/2011 05:29 AM
aagarrison
aagarrisonPosts: 250
Member

Nice to have you back!

05/31/2011 03:36 PM
claphappy
claphappy  
Posts: 4019
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nice to have you back, love the information you share

06/01/2011 03:21 AM
progrmrgurl
progrmrgurl  
Posts: 649
Senior Member

It is good to see you back Karen, this is great info. Thank you

06/01/2011 04:54 AM
familylove
familylove  
Posts: 60
Member

Thanks for this. With everything so new with my diagnosis, and having had no opportunity yet to discuss things with my specialist, this was informative and helpful.

01/21/2012 04:56 PM
heager1
heager1Posts: 298
Member

thanks

01/21/2012 05:23 PM
Duck4wave
Duck4wave  
Posts: 173
Member

Thanks for the information.

Since I already have alopecia areata I wonder if I'll ever be dx'd with RA (already have some osteo starting.)

My understanding is it isn't unusual for a person to go through life with MORE than 1 ai condition.

I'll be having a bone density scan done in a few months. X-rays last summer showed bone thinning. Sigh.


01/21/2012 05:27 PM
kvnj
kvnj  
Posts: 3906
Group Leader

As I understand it, autoimmune diseases like to travel together. This organizations studies AI diseases, so maybe you'll find some good info on the site.

http://www.aarda.org


01/22/2012 07:59 AM
Cata
Cata  
Posts: 2061
Group Leader

Yeah, it is not uncommon to have two or more AI dxs

In my dr appt last week, my dr said to me "hmm, it seems you don't have lupus anymore! It is very rare, but you had lupus and now you don't" (!!!) She always said i had lupus. I wasn't so sure. Now i don't. Even 30 yrs after fiRst dx drs still confuse me when it comes to how to call what i have! Not complaining though, i prefer to, oficially, not have lupus. It made my dr very cautios about using some biologics in me (because they could "awake" the lupus). Now i will start my first biologic, it seems

Post edited by: Cata, at: 01/22/2012 08:01 AM

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