Rheumatoid arthritis, RA, is an autoimmune disease affecting the connective tissues throughout the body. An autoimmune disease means the individual's antibodies in their blood mistakenly target their own body tissues. RA is characterized by chronic inflammation of the synovium which causes irreversible damage to the cartilage and joint capsule. There is generally muscle and bone atrophy and small erosions in the bone surrounding the involved joints. The image to the right demonstrates a normal joint with the intact cartilage surrounding the bone ends and normal synovium surrounding the joint. The lower image shows the thickening of the synovial membrane with the associated increase in joint fluid and bone erosions.
Common signs of rheumatoid arthritis include:
In the foot, the metatarsal phalangeal joints are the most commonly affected joints. The image below show a diagram of the bones with the MPJs (metatarsal phalangeal joints) highlighted. The image to the right shows a severely affected foot of an individual with rheumatoid arthritis.
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis and the goal of treatment is to reduce joint pain and inflammation, increase function and slow progression of the disease. A rheumatologist is a specialist in rheumatoid arthritis.
last updated 4/22/15
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