Sufferers of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) know that it is, indeed, a life-long disease, with chronic reccurrences, or "flare-ups" repeating over time. However, RA can be maintained and also doesn't have to be constant. RA can be very painful and debilitating as it is an inflammatory form of arthritis. It is caused by white blood cells turning on the body and attacking the lining of the joints. The cause of this is not necessarily known, but is thought to perhaps be the result of a viral infection that people are genetically more susceptible to. This would indicate that while the disease itself is not heredity, one's capacity to acquire it is.
According to the Mayo Clinic, RA typically affects females, with females more than twice as likely as males to get it, and has a predominant age range between 20-50, although not limited to that particular age bracket. Typically, more than one joint is affected at a time and they tend to occur on symmetrical sides of the body.
RA tends to surface first in the smaller joints (hands, wrists, feet, knees) before moving to larger joints (hips, shoulders, jaw, neck, elbows) as a pain/swelling/stiffness/aching. Additional symptoms include: loss of motion and strength in joints and muscles, fever, joint deformity, fatigue , occasionally depression. Rheumatoid Nodules are also common and appear as bumps underneath the flesh at pressure points.
It is common for RA to happen in cycles of activity, followed by periods of remission when symptoms either disappear or are greatly reduced. Flare-ups can be prevented or maintained by managing RA effectively with medications and anti-inflammatory drugs, and possibly by preventing infection.
Surgeries are available in some cases, especially in particular severe cases where joint destruction has occurred. Another surgery involves removing antibodies that cause inflammation in the joints. Immunosuppressant's can also be used as they suppress immune responses and weed out disease cells. They must be used cautiously however as the user is now more susceptible to other infections. Alternatives with no side effects are often used as complementary drugs or by advocates of alternative medication.