CausesBy Mayo Clinic staff
CLICK TO ENLARGE
|Osteoarthritis vs. rheumatoid arthritis|
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system attacks the synovium — the lining of the membranes that surround your joints. The resulting inflammation thickens the synovium, which can eventually destroy the cartilage and bone within the joint. The tendons and ligaments that hold the joint together weaken and stretch. Gradually, the joint loses its shape and alignment.
Doctors don't know what starts this process, although a genetic component appears likely. While your genes don't actually cause rheumatoid arthritis, they can make you more susceptible to environmental factors — such as infection with certain viruses and bacteria — that may trigger the disease.
- Handout on health: Rheumatoid arthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Rheumatic_Disease/default.asp. Accessed June 26, 2013.
- Bope ET, et al. Conn's Current Therapy. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=$eid&isbn=978-1-4557-0295-4&uniqId=398813857-1936. Accessed June 26, 2013.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed June 26, 2013.
- Frontera WR, et al. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1678/0.html. Accessed June 26, 2013.
- Venables PJ, et al. Diagnosis and differential diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 26, 2013.
- Schur PH, et al. General principles of management of rheumatoid arthritis in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 26, 2013.
- Matteson EL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 2, 2013.
- Schur PH, et al. Nonpharmacologic and preventive therapies of rheumatoid arthritis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 26, 2013.
- Rheumatoid arthritis and complementary health approaches. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/RA/getthefacts.htm. Accessed July 1, 2013.