How does rheumatoid arthritis cause joint damage?

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Maybe then I can understand why the damage is permanent.
Wow. So far, very informative answers. I didnt realize it could go in “remission”. Keep em comin! =)

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cowboydoc

Go to WebMd.com for a complete and full report on rheumatoid arthritis.
About one per cent of the population is affected by this disease while women, for unknown reasons get it three times more then a man. It’s considered a genetic, evolutionary and general disease that affects people different ways. Some get it for a time then it goes into remission for unknown reasions. Others get it and are cripled for life in pain.
It can and does attack the young as well as the old. It’s known for the redness, the swelling and water retention in the joints but, can attack the skin, the eyes and the heart as well.

rosieC

When rheumatoid arthritis flares up, it makes joints feel stiff and achy. That discomfort may go away at times, but there may still be permanent damage. Eventually rheumatoid arthritis can harm joints so they don’t work as well even when the disease itself is not active. How does joint damage occur, and how can it be prevented?

Doctors call the active periods of rheumatoid arthritis disease activity. During disease activity, infection-fighting cells (white blood cells) are mistakenly allowed into the joint. No one understands why this happens, but it’s clear the infection fighters don’t belong there.

Inside the joint, these cells produce chemicals that they usually use to kill invading microorganisms – only none are there. Instead, the chemicals damage the healthy joint tissue. During high levels of disease activity, you experience a flare – joints become swollen, stiff, and painful. You can also have low levels of disease activity that come and go without your feeling any symptoms.

There are two main ways this process can cause joint damage:

The infection-fighting chemicals cause cartilage to slowly weaken. Cartilage is the cushion between bones in a joint. Over time, putting stress on the joint or bearing weight on it can wear down the weak cartilage more. This is called degenerative disease, and it is similar to what happens in “regular” arthritis (osteoarthritis) – only it happens faster in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
The inflammation inside the joint stimulates the joint lining (synovium) to grow and spread where it doesn’t belong. If it continues long enough, it can harm healthy cartilage or bone.
The simple rule of thumb is, the “longer” and “stronger” the disease activity, the more joint damage is probably occurring.

A person with joint swelling and stiffness every day is more likely to have joint damage than a person with these symptoms once a month. (Longer disease activity)
Someone with a lot of joint swelling is more likely to have damage than a person with just a little bit. (Stronger disease activity)
How can you tell if you are having disease activity? It can sometimes be difficult.

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