What is rheumatoid arthritis?

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, progressive, autoimmune disease characterised by inflammation of the peripheral joints of the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and feet, usually on both sides of the body.

Damage is caused by persistent inflammation of the synovium, the membrane lining the joint, with subsequent damage or destruction of the cartilage, bone erosion and joint deformities. Unfortunately, once cartilage and joints have been damaged by inflammation, they don’t heal well, so much of the treatment of RA is aimed at suppressing the inflammation so typical of the condition.

Although normally confined to the joints, rheumatoid arthritis may affect other systems such as the lungs, heart and nervous system, but this is rare. It’s now understood that there’s an immune reaction against the body's own synovial tissue, called an autoimmune reaction. 


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
30% - 9686 votes
70% - 23026 votes