Alternate Names : RA
Rheumatoid arthritis, also called RA, is an inflammation in the lining
of the joints and other internal body organs. RA belongs to a
group of diseases called autoimmune disorders,
in which the body makes antibodies against its own tissues. It is a fairly
common form of arthritis.
What is going on in the body?
In RA, for reasons unknown, the body's immune
system malfunctions and begins making antibodies against its own tissues.
Antibodies are proteins that help the body to fight infection. These antibodies are
made by the immune system in response to a trigger called an antigen.
This trigger is often a substance that the body sees as "foreign."
These foreign substances can include things like bacteria and viruses.
This immune reaction causes an inflammation of the synovial membrane
lining the joints.
This chronic inflammation produces enzymes that can invade
and damage cartilage and bone within the joint. Sometimes this form of
arthritis is mild, but 70% of people who have it develop chronic problems, and
15% have severe crippling disease. Young children can have a form called
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
The causes of RA are not yet fully
understood. Experts suspect that some type of virus can trigger RA in
people who have certain genes that give one a tendency to
develop the disease.
RA affects 2.1 million people in the U.S. and can develop at
any age. Most often, it starts in middle age, but it is also common in people
in their 20s and 30s. More than 70% of the people who have RA are women.
There is currently research into a number of factors that
may trigger RA, including:
certain abnormal genes found in some, but not all, people who have RA
certain viruses or bacteria that trigger the autoimmune response of RA