Rheumatoid arthritis or RA is a chronic autoimmune, inflammatory disease that can lead to irreversible joint damage. When a person has rheumatoid arthritis, their immune system attacks healthy joints and tissues. The causes of RA are unknown, though researchers have hypothesized it is linked to genetics and environmental influences. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include pain, swelling, joint stiffness, and loss of the function in the hands, wrists, shoulders, knees and one's feet. People with RA generally feel pain and stiffness in the early stages of the disease. Other early signs include ongoing numbness or tingling in the hands, swollen feet, pain in the heel and bottom of the foot, locked joints that do not bend. Some people may experience fatigue and depression. As the condition progresses, nodules or firm lumps may form under the skin near the affected joints.
There is no cure for RA, but certain treatment methods help individuals cope with the condition. Treatment revolves around controlling symptoms and stopping joint damage through medications, surgical procedures, and daily routine and lifestyle changes. Treatment options have been known to reduce pain and stiffness and slow or prevent further damage to joints and tissue.
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