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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) facts

  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints and other areas of the body.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and signs include
    • joint pain, such as in the joints of the feet, hands, and knees,
    • swollen joints,
    • fever,
    • limping,
    • polyarthritis,
    • loss of range of motion,
    • tender joints,
    • loss of joint function,
    • stiff joints,
    • fatigue,
    • joint redness,
    • rheumatoid nodules,
    • anemia,
    • joint warmth,
    • joint deformity, and
    • symptoms and signs that affect both sides of the body (symmetry).
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease characterized by periods of disease flares and remissions.
  • In rheumatoid arthritis, multiple joints are usually, but not always, affected in a symmetrical pattern.
  • Chronic inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent joint destruction and deformity.
  • Damage to joints can occur early and does not always correlate with the severity of RA symptoms.
  • The "rheumatoid factor" is an antibody that can be found in the blood of 80% of people with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid factor is detected in a simple blood test. Possible risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis include genetic background, smoking, silica inhalation, periodontal disease, and microbes in the bowels (gut bacteria).
  • There is no cure for RA. The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis optimally involves a combination of patient education, rest and exercise, joint protection, medications, and occasionally surgery.
  • Medications used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis include NSAIDs, DMARDs, TNF alpha inhibitors, IL-6 inhibitors, T-cell activation inhibitors, B-cell depleters, JAK inhibitors, immunosuppressants, and steroids.
  • Early RA treatment results in a better prognosis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of all ages. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known.
Picture of hands affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Notice the joint deformity in the fingers.
Picture of hands affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Notice the joint deformity in the fingers; Image provided by Getty Images
Return to Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

See what others are saying

Comment from: blaquerose, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: November 07

I guess I really do not understand rheumatoid arthritis, because when I have flare-ups my rheumatologist says it is not due to rheumatoid arthritis. So if the doctor saw me in August and I showed no signs, and I don't know what that means. It is now November and I can hardly walk because of pain in my groin and I have not been able to move my shoulder for three weeks. Doctor had nurse call to say it is not because of rheumatoid. I don't know what I am missing.

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Comment from: Grammy, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: August 05

I have been diagnosed with diverticulosis for over 10 years, so I have flare ups of diverticulitis about 10 to 15 times a year varying in severity. The one thing I have not seen mentioned in the stories is the drug hyoscyamine. I have used it for all of my flare ups and it is a miracle worker to take out the frequent bowel movements and the stabbing pain; works better than pain medicines. And there are no horrid side effects.

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Comment from: Graeme, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: October 16

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1995. I was put on prednisone resulting in reduced bone density so it is important to have bone scans every 2 years. In 2001 was diagnosed with Felty's syndrome and had my spleen removed 2012. I had heart bypass in 2014. I have just turned 65 and still working. It is important not to give up.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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