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What Is the Connection between Arthritis and the Immune System?

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  • Written By: Brandon May
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 19 June 2018
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Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the common forms of arthritis affected by the immune system, and is also one of the most common forms that occurs during times of illness or infection. Arthritis and the immune system response are related for one reason — the immune response to a certain bacteria or viral infections can bring about inflammation or soreness to joints in the body. More often than not, treatment involves focusing on the infection rather than the inflammation, as treating the inflammation alone can result in recurrent inflammation and arthritis over time. Treating both arthritis and the immune system may also include using anti-inflammatories to temporarily dull soreness and stiffness.

When a bacteria or foreign invader enters the body through the nose or mouth, the immune system will prompt an attack on these substances to prevent or combat infection or illness. It has been shown that arthritis and the immune system are connected by the immune system's ability to misdirect this attack to the joints in the body. This results in inflammation to the joints and muscles, which is attributed to soreness, redness and stiffness of the hands and feet. Other body parts can also be affected, such as the elbows and knees, as well as the genital areas.

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Reactive arthritis is a common term for the association between arthritis and the immune system, as arthritis symptoms are often initiated by an immune system response. It is thought that rheumatoid arthritis is the main arthritis associated with the immune system, and it is often considered to be an autoimmune disorder. Healthy tissues and joints are mistaken for foreign invaders, and the immune system attacks these areas of the body. Scientists are still investigating the cause of this, yet it is clear that it may be due to miscommunication between cells or a genetic abnormality.

Rheumatoid arthritis and the immune system response have been shown to have a connection in some studies due to their shared symptoms, such as pain and nauseousness. The mechanisms by which both are connected are not fully known, yet treatment can still be given. For the majority of patients, anti-inflammatories are given to the patient suffering from the autoimmune disorder along with treatment for the bacterial or viral infection. Once the immune system is treated and can direct its signals to the correct locations, autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis can be alleviated in some people.

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