Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the joints. What does autoimmune mean? It’s when your body’s immune system doesn’t work quite right, and has the wrong response to a body part. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, it’s that the immune system attacks the joints, specifically those in the hands and wrists.

It hasn’t been determined just yet what causes someone to develop rheumatoid arthritis, although it has been established that it’s a mix of genetic and environmental factors. We can make a guess that older people might be more affected, simply because they have weaker immune systems to start with, but there’s no history to establish. If someone in your family had it, there’s a good chance you’ll develop it.

 What does rheumatoid arthritis do? Since everyone’s immune system is different, people may experience it in different ways, but there are a few ways it shows itself. Your hands and wrists may be warm and swollen, or painful to the touch. Rest helps, but then it seems the symptoms come back right away. There are other ways that it can affect the body, but swollen joints are the most obvious.

 If you have it, you might not know. Symptoms are slow to come, and it’s easy to pass it as something that might be a one-off. However, if you have continued joint pain, regardless of whether it could be arthritis or not, it’s important to see a doctor and discuss your concern.