Effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Because people are affected differently by rheumatoid arthritis, the effects of the disease are very difficult to predict in individual cases. For example, some people have rheumatoid arthritis that lasts only a few months or a year or two and goes away without causing any noticeable damage. Other people have a severe form of the disease that may last as long as a lifetime and lead to serious joint damage and disability.
Effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Overview
Rheumatoid arthritis affects people differently. For some people, it lasts only a few months or a year or two and goes away without causing any noticeable damage. Other people have mild or moderate forms of the disease, with periods of worsening symptoms, called flares, and periods in which they feel better, called remissions.
Still others have a severe form of the disease that is active most of the time, lasts for many years or a lifetime, leads to serious joint damage and disability, and may even affect other parts of the body.
After 12 years, fewer than 20 percent of people will have no evidence of deformity or disability. About 15 percent of people will have short-lived disease without any long-term effects of rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Its Effects on the Joints
Understanding rheumatoid arthritis begins by understanding the joints. A joint is a place where two bones meet. The ends of the bones are covered by cartilage, which allows for easy movement of the two bones.
The joint is surrounded by a capsule that protects and supports it. The joint capsule is lined with a type of tissue called synovium, which produces synovial fluid, a clear substance that lubricates and nourishes the cartilage and bones inside the joint capsule.
Like many other rheumatic diseases, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease (auto means self), meaning a person's immune system, which normally helps protect the body from infection and disease, attacks joint tissues for unknown reasons. White blood cells, along with other agents of the immune system, travel to the synovium and attack it. This causes inflammation within the synovium (known medically as synovitis). This inflammation causes the normally thin synovium to become thick and makes the joint swollen, painful, and puffy to the touch.