What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis affects the synovial membrane that surrounds the joint.
For reasons not fully understood, the body’s immune system attacks (autoimmune disease) the membrane causing inflammation and an over-production of synovial fluid. The membrane is invaded by white blood cells, which produce a variety of destructive chemicals. The cartilage along the articular surfaces of the bones may be attacked and destroyed. This process causes joints to become swollen and painful. If the process continues, damage to the cartilage can cause joint deformities.
Other problems throughout the body (systemic problems) may also develop including inflammation of blood vessels, the development of bumps (rheumatoid nodules) in various parts of the body, lung disease, blood disorders and weakening of the bones (osteoporosis).