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Conditions InDepth: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation in the joints and certain other organs throughout the body. It is called an autoimmune disorder. It is believed that the body’s immune system accidentally mistakes its own tissues for foreign invaders. The immune system attacks the joints and organs, causing damage.
Researchers are not sure what causes the immune system to respond so destructively. It may be caused by a combination of factors, including:
More than two million Americans (about 1% of the total population) have rheumatoid arthritis.
• What are the risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis? • What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis? • How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed? • What are the treatments for rheumatoid arthritis? • Are there screening tests for rheumatoid arthritis? • How can I reduce my risk of rheumatoid arthritis? • What questions should I ask my doctor? • What is it like to live with rheumatoid arthritis? • Where can I get more information about rheumatoid arthritis?
Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/ .
Conn H, Rakel R. Conn’s Current Therapy . 54th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002.
Ferri F, ed. Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2010. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2009.
Firestein G, Kelley W. Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2008.
Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Textbook of Internal Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2008.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ .
Last reviewed September 2011 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
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