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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammation of the membranes or tissues lining the joints. Over time, rheumatoid arthritis may destroy the joint tissues, including cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bone, and, in rare but severe cases, may cause organ damage.

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Painful, swollen, stiff joints. The same joints on both sides of the body (symmetrical) are usually affected, especially the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and feet.
  • Morning stiffness. Joint stiffness may develop after long periods of sleeping or sitting and may last at least 60 minutes and often up to several hours.
  • Formation of bumps (nodules) in the pressure points on the body, such as the elbows, knuckles, spine, and lower leg bones.
  • Fatigue, a general feeling of illness (malaise), mild fever, a loss of appetite, and weight loss.

Medicine may help control rheumatoid arthritis or prevent the disease from getting worse, which can reduce the risk of permanent disability. Surgery may be needed for severely deformed joints.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerStanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
Last RevisedJune 11, 2010

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