Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that is also classified as an autoimmune disorder. This means that the nervous system sends errant messages to the immune cells to attack the body’s own tissues – in this case, the synovial fluid that lubricates the joints. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include painful swelling, stiffness and deformities of the joints, most commonly in the hands, wrists and feet; typically, joints on both sides of the body are affected. While the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is largely unknown, genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors are suspected. Treatment programs usually center on medications to control the symptoms and stop or slow the progressive joint damage; exercise may also be included to help the patient retain strength and mobility.