Disease Progression in Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is
a chronic disease. RA mainly involves inflammation of the joints. It also often
causes fatigue and a general feeling of being unwell. Some people with RA may have
anemia (a low number of red blood cells). Less often, RA can affect other parts
of the body, such as the eyes, blood vessels, heart, and lungs.
The course of RA varies from person to person. Most often, however, the disease
worsens over time unless disease activity is controlled.
If RA is not controlled or does not respond well to treatment, joint damage may
occur. Inflammation slowly weakens and erodes the cartilage and bone at the joints.
Over time, joint damage may lead to deformity and potential loss of function of
the joints. Once joint damage has occurred, it cannot be reversed, even if RA becomes
Research shows that joint damage usually begins in the first 2 years that a person
has RA. For this reason, experts on RA recommend getting active RA under control
as early as possible. Studies also show that early treatment with certain types
of drugs can often slow or prevent joint damage. These drugs are known as DMARDs
(disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs).
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment »