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Chronic disease characterised by swelling and inflammation of one or more joints, often resulting in stiffness and eventual impairment of mobility; also known as chronic rheumatic arthritis.
Persons most commonly affected: All age groups and both sexes but specially women and more common in those aged 30 to 50 years
Organ or part of body involved: Joints, usually the feet, ankles, fingers and wrists.
Symptoms and indications: Inflammation, tenderness or pain in the affected joints, and stiffness, especially on first getting up in the morning. By afternoon the person may feel unusually tired or unwell. Deformities of affected joints are likely to develop.
Causes and risk factors: The cause is not known but there appear to be genetic factors involved. Most affected people have a particular antibody -- HLA-DR4, but there are likely to be other factors involved, including a family tendency for the disease. It may damage the heart, lungs, nerves and eyes.
Prevention: Losing weight if carrying excess weight is essential in order to reduce unnecessary strain on the joints. Reducing the amount of fat consumed can help with weight reduction and may also allow the fatty acids obtained from oily fish, nuts and seeds to be fully effective.