Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disorder of the immune system that affects multiple joints in the body, causing pain, stiffness and swelling of the affected joints. The commonly affected joints are the small joints of the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles and the toes. It can also affect other organs in the body like the eyes, skin, heart and lungs.
The body’s immune system which normally takes care of combating foreign bacteria, viruses and diseased cells in the body begins to attack the joints and their surrounding tissues leading to inflammation. Lacking an “off switch”, the continual attack by the immune system eventually causes damage to the joints. As the condition progresses, the inflammation, pain and stiffness of the joints tend to increase in severity, ultimately leading to joint deformity and a loss of function and mobility.
As Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disorder of the immune system and not due to “wear and tear”, patients can acquire Rheumatoid Arthritis at any age, though it occurs most commonly between the age of 25 and 40. It can and does occur in children. It affects both men and women, although women are 3 times more likely than men to develop the condition.