Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that results in chronic inflammation and pain in the smaller joints, such as those in your feet and hands. It differs from the more common osteoarthritis in that rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t come from wear and tear on the joints but instead affects the synovial lining of the joints so that they swell and become inflamed.
Eventually, the cartilage wears away and you end up with bony erosion of the joints and severe joint deformity.
As an autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis happens when the immune system attacks the tissues of the body, in this case, the tissues within your joints. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis develop symptoms in other body areas, when the autoantibodies affect the eyes, blood vessels, skin, and lungs.
Rheumatoid arthritis has been known to affect children but it is usually a disease-affecting people older than 40 years of age. Like all autoimmune disorders, the disease is more common in women than it is in men. Treatment, as you will see later, is focused on reducing your symptoms and preventing further damage to your joints.