What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis And What Are The Common Causes Of Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain?

Dr. Jeffrey Lisse answers the question: 'Causes Of Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain?'

ByABC News
November 21, 2008, 10:18 AM

— -- Question: What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis And What Are Some Of The Most Common Causes Of Pain Associated With Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Answer: To explain rheumatoid arthritis, first let me back up a bit, and mention that there's over a hundred different kinds of arthritis. Rheumatoid is the most common in inflammatory arthritis, and by that we mean that there is inflammation in the joints. By far and away, the most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is thought to be a degenerative disease. But rheumatoid is one of a member of what we call autoimmune diseases, where the body literally begins to react against itself.

Even though these diseases affect more than the joints, the major manifestation that patients will feel is pain, swelling, redness, tenderness in their joints, but this may be associated with systemic features such as stiffness, fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite -- all of these things make this more of what we call rheumatoid disease than pure arthritis. With that said though, the pain that most people suffer, early on it's due to mainly inflammation. The joints will be hot, as I mentioned, red, swollen, tender, and this will be all manifestations of how the disease is inflaming and attacking the joints.

Later on, as the disease progresses, there's actually joint destruction, where the joints are damaged. And then the pain becomes problems due to secondary osteoarthritis and deformities, malformations that are caused by damage to the joints, laxity of the ligaments around the joints. And these cause structural problems that then make it difficult for the patient to do the functions that they need to do without hurting. So, in summary, the two main reasons are inflammation, and then damage and destruction later on.

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