Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of arthritis which can be disabling when untreated. However, the outlook for this disease has recently improved due to the discovery of drugs and other treatment. Rheumatoid arthritis is known as an autoimmune disease which means that it is caused by an immune system that attacks its own cells and tissues. It is also the most common type of autoimmune arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis can last for a long time, giving rise to symptoms such as pain, stiffness, swelling and limited motion and function of many joints. It may involve the small joints of the hands and the feet. It can also give rise to inflammation of the other organs of the body such as the eyes and the lungs. Stiffness in active rheumatoid arthritis is often worse during the morning and may last for hours throughout the day. Other signs and symptoms may include loss of energy, low fevers, loss of appetite, dry eyes and mouth from a related health problem, Sjogren’s syndrome, and firm lumps called rheumatoid nodules (which grow beneath the skin in places such as the elbow and hands).
In rheumatoid arthritis, the cells of the immune system are at fault and do not work properly. These cells attack healthy tissues such as the joints. The cause for this is still unknown yet more research is currently ongoing to determine its true cause. The cells attack the synovium, the tissue that lines the joint. This further creates inflammation because the immune cells release inflammation-causing chemicals, and can further lead to cartilage and bone damage.
There are people who are more prone to have rheumatoid arthritis. Those who are prone to this disorder are often women who are in their fourth and sixth decades of life. However, people can get rheumatoid arthritis at any age.
Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed through symptoms, although these symptoms can be subtle during the early stages. The disease usually presents with achy joints or a little stiffness in the morning. Blood tests may be ordered by the physician which may show anemia (a low red blood cell count), rheumatoid factor (an antibody, or blood protein, found in about 80% of patients with RA in time, but in as few as 30% at the start of arthritis), antibodies to cyclic citrullinated peptides (pieces of proteins) or anti-ccp for short and elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (a blood test that, in most patients with RA, confirms the amount of inflammation in the joints). X-rays may also be helpful in detecting rheumatoid arthritis, as well as MRI and ultrasound scanning. However there is no single confirmatory test for RA.
Rheumatoid arthritis may lead to complications such as rheumatoid lungs (damage to lung tissue), atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, spinal injury which may result to the damage of neck bones, inflammation of the blood vessels (rheumatoid vasculitis), which can lead to skin, nerve, heart, and brain problems and swelling and inflammation of the outer lining of the heart (pericarditis) and of the heart muscle (myocarditis), which can lead to congestive heart failure. There are also other complications which may be brought about by rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Angiogenesis
A recent study has shown that two protein molecules that fit together as lock and key seem to promote the abnormal formation of blood vessels in joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis. This study was done by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. The results of this study were published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. These researchers have found out that a protein called CCL28 was found in the body under low oxygen conditions, or hypoxia. This protein may also be responsible for rheumatoid arthritis. CCL28, which is over-produced in joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis, attracts the surface-lining cells that carry its receptor.
To read more exciting discoveries about arthritis and autoimmune diseases, feel free to read our other articles on this site.
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