According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is a general term for joint pain or joint disease.  Common symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion.   Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities, and permanent joint damage.  Arthritis can be caused be degeneration of cartilage, autoimmune inflammation, various infections, and metabolic issues such as high uric acid.  

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints.   This creates inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the inside of joints (the synovium) to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joints.  If inflammation goes unchecked, it can damage cartilage, as well as the bones themselves.  Rheumatoid Arthritis most commonly affects the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles.  Because RA also can affect body systems, such as the cardiovascular or respiratory systems, it is considered a systemic disease.