Rheumatoid Arthritis FAQs
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease causing chronic inflammation of the joints. It can make the most simple of tasks -- getting dressed, brushing your teeth, cooking dinner or even driving your car -- challenging. Here are some facts about RA that will help you in understanding, treating and living with RA.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
RA is an autoimmune disease. This means that antibodies in your immune system that are supposed to protect you mistakenly turn on you and attack your joints. This causes inflammation and pain in your joints, particularly the hands and feet.
How do you get RA?
Anybody can develop RA. It typically begins between 25 and 50 years old, and occurs two to three times more often in women than men. People with a history of RA in their family are more likely to develop RA.
What causes RA?
Nobody knows exactly what causes RA. Doctors theorize it may be caused by previous infections or it may be hereditary.
Is RA curable?
While the symptoms of RA can be treated, it is a lifelong disease and does not go away.
How is RA diagnosed?
A doctor will look at your symptom history, examine your joints for inflammation and deformity, look at your skin for rheumatoid nodules, and check for inflammation. The doctor will also obtain blood, x-ray tests and joint fluid analysis, which tests the fluid in your joins, in order to help with the diagnosis.