Inside a Damaged Joint

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Rheumatoid arthritis or RA happens when your immune system attacks the lining of your joints by mistake. Normally, this lining keeps your cartilage healthy and lubricates your joints, so they move smoothly. But with RA, your immune cells attack the lining, causing inflammation and thickening.

Healthy joint cartilage is very durable, able to absorb impact and stress. But over time, the inflammation caused by RA can damage cartilage, making it weaker and less flexible.

RA can also switch on cells that break down your bones, further harming the joint. The tendons and ligaments that hold the joint together become weak. Eventually, the joint loses its shape and becomes deformed. Your joints may feel stiff, tender, swollen, and painful.

To ease your symptoms, your doctor may recommend a combination of medications, physical therapy, or surgery.