What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an ongoing, progressive disease that affects the joints of the body with episodes of painful inflammation. It is an autoimmune disease that can also cause inflammation and damage to blood vessels and organs.

The onset of rheumatoid arthritis, also known as RA, can occur at any age and affects women more than men. In general, the younger a person is when he or she develops rheumatoid arthritis, the more rapidly the disease progresses.

The severity of rheumatoid arthritis varies greatly among individuals. In some cases, people with the disease become severely disabled. In addition, life expectancy may be shortened by about three to seven years, and those with the most severe forms of RA may die 10 to 15 years earlier than expected.

Complications of rheumatoid arthritis can be serious and include the destruction of joints, disability, and in severe cases, life-threatening complications of organs and blood vessels.

Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as inflammation, pain, stiffness, and swelling of joints. Early diagnosis and treatment can minimize discomfort and reduce your risk of serious complications.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis vary greatly from person to person and can be mild, moderate or severe. At the onset of the disease, the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are often vague and develop slowly. Symptoms may not include the classic symptom of joint pain that people often associate with rheumatoid arthritis. T... Read more about rheumatoid arthritissymptoms

CAUSES

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, but it is classified as an autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system mistakes healthy tissues as dangerous to the body and attacks them. This results in inflammation that can eventually destroy joints and damage blood vessels and organs.

What are the risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis?

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TREATMENTS

How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment plans use a multifaceted approach and are individualized to the stage of advancement of the disease and your age, medical history, and coexisting diseases or conditions. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but with early recognition and treatment, it is possible to minimize or delay joint damage and complications of the disease, such as chronic pain and dis... Read more about rheumatoid arthritistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.