Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term (chronic) disease that causes inflammation of the joints. The inflammation can be so severe that it affects how the joints and other parts of the body look and function. In the hand, RA may cause deformities in the joints of the fingers. This makes moving your hands difficult. Lumps, known as rheumatoid nodules, may form anywhere in the body.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), also known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
(JRA), is a form of arthritis in children ages 16 or younger. It causes inflammation and
joint stiffness that last for more than 6 weeks. Unlike adult RA, which lasts a
lifetime, children often outgrow JIA . But the disease can affect bone development in a
growing child. Some children with JIA will continue to have arthritis into adulthood.
Doctors don't know the exact cause of RA. RA is an autoimmune disorder. This means the
body's immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. This causes inflammation
in and around the joints. This may damage the skeletal system. RA can also damage other
organs, such as the heart and lungs. Researchers think certain factors, including
heredity, may be a factor.
most often occurs in people from ages 30 to 50, but it can occur at any age. It happens
more in women than in men.
joints most often affected by RA are in the hands, wrists, feet, ankles, knees,
shoulders, and elbows. The disease often causes inflammation in the same areas on both
sides of the body. Symptoms may start suddenly or slowly over time. Each person’s
symptoms may vary. They may include:
These symptoms can seem like other health conditions. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Diagnosing RA may be difficult in the early stages. This is because symptoms may be
very mild, and signs of the disease may not be seen on X-rays or in blood tests. Your
healthcare provider will take your health history and give you a physical exam. You may
need tests such as:
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It
will also depend on how severe the condition is.
There is no cure for RA. The goal of treatment is often to limit pain and inflammation,
and help you retain function. You may have one or more types of treatments. Treatment
some cases, you may need surgery if other treatments don’t work. Surgery does not cure
RA. It helps correct the deformities caused by the disease. After surgery, RA can still
cause problems. You may even need more surgery. Joint repair or reconstruction can be
done in many ways, including:
Because RA damages joints over time, it causes some disability. It can cause pain and movement problems. You may be less able to do your normal daily activities and tasks. This can also lead to problems such as depression and anxiety.
can also affect many non-joint parts of the body, such as the lungs, heart, skin,
nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and kidneys. These complications can lead to severe
illness and even death.
There is no cure for RA. But it is important to help keep your joints working well by reducing pain and inflammation. Work on a treatment plan with your healthcare provider that includes medicine and physical therapy. Work on lifestyle changes that can improve your quality of life. Lifestyle changes include:
Tell your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200