Glossary

Glossary


Rheumatoid arthritis
A chronic and potentially debilitating inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints. It is an autoimmune disease. Such diseases are characterized by the immune system attacking the body's healthy tissues. White blood cells travel to the synovium (the membranes that surround joints) and cause inflammation or synovitis. The ensuing warmth, redness, swelling and pain are typical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which usually affects the wrist joints and the finger joints closest to the hand. The continuous inflammation associated with RA gradually destroys collagen, which coats the end of the bones. This narrows the joint space and eventually damages bone. The surrounding muscles, ligaments and tendons that support and stabilize the joint also become weak and unable to work normally.