Define Rheumatoid Arthritis – The word arthritis comes from the Greek “Arthros” which means joints and “itis” that refers to inflammation (bronch-itis, tendon-itis, laryng-itis). A simple definition would therefore be “inflammation of the joints”. This definition is correct but perhaps simplistic as arthritis sufferers know that it can be a lot more.
Arthritis is one of the rheumatic diseases. These in turn are conditions that have different complications and treatments. A rheumatoid condition will affect joints, soft tissues, ligaments, muscles, tendons and can also affect the musculo-skeletal (muscles and bones) system. They can also include autoimmune diseases, one of which is Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Getting back to arthritis, as mentioned it affects the joints where inflammation is present. The joints are where two or more bones are in contact and they have developed to allow movement and give mechanical support. Our finger and toes for example have joints.
These joints are classified into three:
Fibrous joints that are joined by fibrous tissue.
Cartilaginous joints, by cartilage
Synovial joints – not joined directly but where the articulation is provided by lubricating synovial fluid.
In arthritis the cartilage wears away and so the joint when moved has lost its cushion so to speak. Inflammation and pain occurs.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis, some say more than 150. It is a chronic illness which means it is long lasting and persistent. (An acute illness on the other hand is one that appears abruptly and usually of short duration). The chronic aspect of arthritis highlights the fact that it is there for the long term.
The different types of arthritis make it the most common of all the chronic diseases in America. Of these Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent and affects the cartilage and therefore the associated pain an inflammation. Other types affecting many people are Rheumatoid arthritis which results in inflammation caused by the immune system.
The causes of arthritis are extensive where the specific type could be caused by:
Injury (hence Osteoarthritis)
Hereditary and gene causes
Autoimmune problems (Rheumatoid Arthritis)
Gout and other metabolic problems