The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include painful swollen joints that become difficult to flex. This is due to the combined effects of T cells and antibodies produced by the B cells that are directed against the cells of the synovial membrane. The membrane becomes inflamed as the immune cells destroy individual cells of the membrane. The membrane, in an attempt to correct the destruction, begins to produce new cells at a rapid rate. This results in the formation of a thickened pannus within the joint. The pannus then severely hinders joint movement, further complicating the problem. The best pharmaceutical help for this disease is the application of anti-inflammatory drugs. Simple aspirin will help, as will steroids designed to prevent the inflammatory response.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. In autoimmune diseases, your immune system loses its ability to differentiate self from non-self and begins to attack your body.
- In rheumatoid arthritis, the attack affects cartilage in the joints. Using what you have learned about the immune response, what symptoms would you predict?
- How would the normal functioning of the immune system lead to these symptoms?
- What might a physician prescribe for rheumatoid arthritis?
- Why is rheumatoid arthritis considered an autoimmune disease?