RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS (RA)
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DEFINITION AND PATHOGENESIS
A chronic multisystem disease of unknown etiology characterized by persistent inflammatory synovitis, usually involving peripheral joints symmetrically. Although cartilaginous destruction, bony erosions, and joint deformity are hallmarks, the course of RA can be quite variable. An association with HLA-DR4 has been noted; both genetic and environmental factors may play a role in initiating disease. The propagation of RA is an immunologically mediated event in which joint injury occurs from synovial hyperplasia; lymphocytic infiltration of synovium; and local production of cytokines and chemokines by activated lymphocytes, macrophages, and fibroblasts.