This is a condition where one or more joints may be affected due to rheumatoid arthritis which is an inflammatory disorder and is chronic in nature. In few instances, different body systems may get affected as well such as the lungs, eyes, blood vessels, heart and skin. Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the bodily tissues get attacked by mistake by the immune system. Rheumatoid arthritis unlike osteoarthritis, affects the joint linings and causes swelling and pain which may eventually lead to erosion of bones and deformed joints. The inflammation resulting from rheumatoid arthritis may damage other body parts as well. New medicines have dramatically enhanced treatment options. If the arthritis aggravates further the arthritis can however be debilitating. The synovium (lining fluid for the joints), gets attacked in rheumatoid arthritis. This occurs as the synovium gets thickened as a result of the inflammation which with time may destroy the bone, cartilage and parts of the joint. The ligament and tendons holding the joint get stretched and weakened. With time the alignment and shape of the joint changes. Doctors are baffled about what rheumatoid arthritis is caused by. Genetics may play a role in the progression.
Diagnosis in the early stages may be difficult as the early symptoms and signs resemble quite a few other diseases. No single physical finding or blood test is there to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. In a physical exam, the doctor checks the joints for redness, warmth and swelling. Muscle strength and reflexes may be tested as well.
The erythrocyte-sedimentation rate (ESR) or C reactive protein (CRP) is higher in people having rheumatoid arthritis. This might point towards the presence of inflammation in the body.
The doctor might suggest X-rays for tracking the progression of rheumatoid arthritis with time, in the joints. Ultrasound and MRI also helps the doctor in judging the severity of the disease. Your doctor might suggest an occupational therapist or a physiotherapist who can help teach you exercises for keeping the joints flexible. The therapist might suggest ways for performing daily tasks so as to ease the pressure on the joints.