ASK, ANSWER, LEARN
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
John McCahan, MD answered:Joints are made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and a membrane which surrounds the joint called synovium. Arthritis is thought to be inflammation or swelling in a joint but may be more accurately described as joint pain.
In general there are two categories of arthritis: degenerative and inflammatory. In degenerative joint disease, the cartilage has become excessively worn, typically through mechanical wear. This leads to joint malfunction, resulting in pain with activity. Inflammatory arthritis occurs when the immune system infiltrates a joint resulting in warmth, tenderness, swelling and pain. This can happen quickly as seen in bacterial infections or when there are crystals in the joints in diseases such as gout.
There is also chronic inflammatory arthritis, where the immune system attacks the joints slowly over weeks to months. There are many different diseases in this group with different patterns based on which joints and the number of joints involved in the human body.
Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common chronic inflammatory arthritis and classically involves multiple small joints of both hands and/or feet. It can also involve other joints including the knees, ankles, elbows, and shoulders. Patients will awaken with joint stiffness and pain that can last for hours but improves with activity. Over time, the persistent inflammation can lead to severe malformations and disability.
A lot of progress has occurred over the last twenty years in understanding the immunological processes underlying many of the inflammatory joint diseases. We now have new imaging modalities that can diagnose diseases earlier and multiple exciting medications that can help patients return to normal function.
SIGN UP FOR OUR PATIENT PORTAL
PATIENT PORTAL GETTING STARTED
As a patient of Bozeman Deaconess Health Group, you can now access important information in your medical record, request an appointment, and communicate with your medical office team online, with the click of a button, anytime of the day or night.
Go To Patient Portal