rheumatoid arthritis


rheumatoid arthritis
a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the joints, frequently accompanied by marked deformities, and ordinarily associated with manifestations of a general, or systemic, affliction.
[1855-60]

* * *

Chronic, progressive autoimmune disease causing connective-tissue inflammation, mostly in synovial joints.

It can occur at any age, is more common in women, and has an unpredictable course. It usually starts gradually, with pain and stiffness in one or more joints, then swelling and heat. Muscle pain may persist, worsen, or subside. Membrane inflammation and thickening scars joint structures and destroys cartilage. In severe cases, adhesions immobilize and deform the joints, and adjacent skin, bones, and muscles atrophy. If high-dose aspirin, ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs do not relieve pain and disability, low-dose corticosteroids may be tried. Physical medicine and rehabilitation with heat and then range-of-motion exercises reduce pain and swelling. Orthopedic appliances correct or prevent gross deformity and malfunction. Surgery can replace destroyed hip, knee, or finger joints with prostheses. There is also a juvenile form of the disease.

* * *

      chronic, frequently progressive disease in which inflammatory changes occur throughout the connective tissues (connective tissue) of the body. inflammation and thickening of the synovial membranes (the sacs holding the fluid that lubricates the joints (joint)) cause irreversible damage to the joint capsule and the articular (joint) cartilage as these structures are replaced by scarlike tissue called pannus. Rheumatoid arthritis is about three times as common in women as in men and afflicts about 1 percent of the adult population in the developed nations; it is much less common than osteoarthritis, which is associated with aging. It primarily affects the middle-aged. (Children (childhood disease and disorder) are affected by a similar disorder called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (Still's disease).)

      Rheumatoid arthritis usually first attacks joints of the hands and feet symmetrically before progressing to the wrists, knees, or shoulders; the onset of the disorder is gradual. Pain and stiffness in one or more small joints are usually followed by swelling and heat and are accompanied by muscle pain that may become worse, persist for weeks or months, or subside. Joint pain is not always proportionate to the amount of swelling and warmth generated. fatigue, muscle weakness, and weight loss are common symptoms. Often, before prominent signs appear, the affected person may complain of coldness of hands and feet, numbness, and tingling, all of which suggest compression of the vasomotor nerve.

      Active inflammation is first seen in the synovial membranes (synovial tissue) of the joints, which become red and swollen. Later, a layer of roughened granulation tissue, or pannus, protrudes over the surface of the cartilage. Under the pannus the cartilage is eroded and destroyed. The joints become fixed in place (ankylosed) by thick and hardened pannus, which also may cause displacement and deformity of the joints. The skin, bones, and muscles adjacent to the joints atrophy from disuse and destruction. Painful nodules over bony prominences may persist or regress. Complex collections of cells surrounded by lymphocytes (lymphocyte) in the connective tissue of muscle and nerve bundles cause pressure and pain; the nodular lesions may invade the connective tissue of the blood vessel walls.

      Most persons with rheumatoid arthritis have characteristic autoantibodies (autoantibody) in their blood, one of the pieces of evidence implicating an autoimmune (autoimmunity) mechanism in the disease process. (An autoimmune reaction is an immune reaction against the body's own tissues, and an autoantibody is an antibody that attacks components of the body rather than invading microorganisms.) These autoantibodies are collectively called rheumatoid factor. It is not known what causes the autoimmune reaction, but there is evidence that persons afflicted with the disease have a genetic susceptibility to an environmental agent such as a virus. Once activated by such an agent, a series of immune system reactions causes inflammation.

      The most useful medications in relieving the pain and disability of rheumatoid arthritis are aspirin and ibuprofen, which have anti-inflammatory properties. If large doses of these are not sufficient, small doses of corticosteroids (corticoid) such as prednisone may be used. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) also may be prescribed to slow the course of the disease. Physical therapy is helpful in relieving pain and swelling in the affected joints, with an emphasis on the application of heat to the joints followed by exercises that extend the range of motion. Rest is important, in association with maintaining a good posture to prevent deformity. In cases of severe pain or disability, surgery is used to replace destroyed hip, knee, or finger joints with artificial substitutes. Orthopedic appliances are frequently used to correct or prevent gross deformity and malfunction. The outcome of rheumatoid arthritis is unpredictable, with afflicted individuals either recovering completely or progressing to crippling disease.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis — Classification and external resources A hand affected by rheumatoid arthritis ICD 10 M …   Wikipedia

  • rheumatoid arthritis — n a usu. chronic disease that is considered an autoimmune disease and is characterized esp. by pain, stiffness, inflammation, swelling, and sometimes destruction of joints abbr. RA called also atrophic arthritis compare OSTEOARTHRITIS * * * the… …   Medical dictionary

  • rheumatoid arthritis — Arthritis Ar*thri tis ([aum]r*thr[imac] t[i^]s), n. [L., fr. Gr. arqri^tis (as if fem. of arqri tis belonging to the joints, sc. no sos disease) gout, fr. a rqron a joint.] (Med.) Any inflammation of the joints, including the gout. A variety of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • rheumatoid arthritis — rheumatoid arthritis. См. ревматоидный артрит. (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • rheumatoid arthritis — ► NOUN ▪ a chronic progressive disease causing inflammation in the joints and resulting in painful deformity and immobility …   English terms dictionary

  • rheumatoid arthritis — n. a chronic disease whose cause is unknown, characterized by inflammation, pain, and swelling of the joints accompanied by spasms in adjacent muscles and often leading to deformity of the joints …   English World dictionary

  • rheumatoid arthritis — the second most common form of arthritis (after osteoarthritis). It typically involves the joints of the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles, with later involvement of the hips, knees, shoulders, and neck. It is a disease of the synovial lining of… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • rheumatoid arthritis — noun a chronic autoimmune disease with inflammation of the joints and marked deformities; something (possibly a virus) triggers an attack on the synovium by the immune system, which releases cytokines that stimulate an inflammatory reaction that… …   Useful english dictionary

  • rheumatoid arthritis — [[t]ru͟ːmətɔɪd ɑː(r)θra͟ɪtɪs[/t]] N UNCOUNT Rheumatoid arthritis is a long lasting disease that causes your joints, for example your hands or knees, to swell up and become painful …   English dictionary

  • rheumatoid arthritis — noun A chronic and progressive disease in which the immune system attacks the joints. It is characterised by pain, inflammation and swelling of the joints, stiffness, weakness, loss of mobility and deformity. Tissues throughout the body can be… …   Wiktionary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.