Rheumatoid Arthritis Center
- Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis.
- RA is more prevalent in woman than men—in fact, it affects 3 times as many adult females than males.
- Rheumatoid arthritis may begin as early as age 30 in women.
- When a man develops RA it is usually later in life (ie, after age 60).
An Autoimmune Problem
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Normally, the body's immune system produces antibodies to fight infection and disease. But in autoimmune disease the body attacks itself—the body cannot tell the difference between a healthy or sick cell.
A few facts about rheumatoid arthritis:
- RA is a chronic disease that may be progressive, meaning the condition may worsen over time.
- RA targets the body's joints causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and affects joint movement.
- RA attacks the joints' synovium; a thin membrane (tissue) inside the joint capsule. Synovial fluid lubricates the joint enabling friction-free movement and nourishes the joint.
- There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis.
RA and the Spine
The joints in the spine are called facet joints. Two facet joints are located at the back of each vertebral body. Facet joints help stabilize the spine and assist in preventing excessive spinal movement. However, when rheumatoid arthritis affects the facet joints, spinal instability may develop, which could lead to nerve and/or spinal cord compression.