The process involves an inflammatory response of the capsule around the joints (synovium) secondary to swelling (turgescence) of synovial cells, excess synovial fluid, and the development of fibrous tissue (pannus) in the synovium. It also affects the underlying bone(focal erosions) and cartilage(thinning and destruction). RA can also produce diffuse inflammation in the lungs, the membrane around the heart, the membranes of the lung (pleura), and whites of the eye, and also nodular lesions, most common in subcutaneous tissue. It is a clinical diagnosis made primarily on the basis of symptoms and physical examination. X-rays, laboratory testing, and synovial fluid analysis might help support a diagnosis or exclude other diseases with similar symptoms.
Attachement points of the transverse ligament may be weakend.
Rheumatoid patients may develop a retrodental lesion (atlantoaxial rheumatoid pannus) that may cause cervical instability and/or neurological compromise.