The term rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was coined by Sir Alfred Baring Garrod in 1858. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most frequent occurring chronic, inflammatory joint disease and can affect any joint, even larger ones like shoulders, elbows, or knees. The inflammation causes swelling resulting in slowed and limited mobility and pain. If untreated, joint erosions can occur, which lead to functional impairment up to disability. Therefore, an early and appropriate treatment is important to prevent joint damage.
About 1% of the worldwide population suffers from rheumatoid arthritis with approximately three times more women than men. Patients are mostly aged 30 to 50 years when first disease symptoms occur.
In most patients, rheumatoid arthritis starts with tender and swollen joints. Often the joints of hands and feet are affected. The symptoms are mainly symmetrical which means that they occur in the same joints on both sides of the body, e.g. both wrists. In addition, joint stiffness after long rest periods like in the morning and a general fatigue are common symptoms. Your doctor will make several examinations including blood tests and ultrasound scanning, MRI, or X-rays to confirm the diagnosis. You will probably be asked about your family history. As soon as the diagnosis is certain, your doctor will start with an appropriate therapy for you to ease your current symptoms and to prevent future joint erosions.
[How is arthritis treated]