What is rheumatoid arthritis? Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes painful
inflammation of the joints, frequently joints in the hands and feet. An autoimmune disease occurs when
the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's healthy tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the
lining of the joints and can cause joint deformity. It can also spread to affect other organs of the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis is more likely to affect women than men and symptoms commonly first appear in
people aged 40 to 60.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, meaning that it can last for a long period of time, and
there is no cure. Rheumatoid arthritis can be managed through drugs and other therapies.
Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed through a number of tests including the sed rate (erythrocyte
sedimentation rate); the rheumatoid factor test; the anti-CCP antibody test, joint ultrasound; MRIs,
and x-rays; and synovial fluid analysis.
The sed rate measures how fast red blood cells settle in a test tube. Inflammation causes red blood
cells to settle faster.
The rheumatoid factor test reveals how much rheumatoid factor there is in the body. This test is not
an absolute indication of an autoimmune disease because some healthy people have high levels of
rheumatoid factor while some people with rheumatoid arthritis have low levels. This test is used in
conjunction with other tests to make a diagnosis.
Synovial fluid analysis entails removing some of the fluid in the joint. The fluid is analyzed for
color and clarity, and for the presence of blood cells and bacteria.