Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

What is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of chronic autoimmune and inflammatory disease that occurs in joints (hands, wrists, and/or knees) and can lead to joint destruction, unsteadiness (lack of balance), deformity (misshapenness), and loss of function. The immune system attacks healthy cells in the body by mistake, causing inflammation (painful swelling) in the affected parts of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect more than just your joints. RA can also affect other tissues throughout the body and cause problems in organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes. 
Risk factors
  • Being a female. Women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Genetics/inherited traits. People born with specific genes, called HLA (human leukocyte antigen) class II genotypes, are more likely to develop RA. 
  • Smoking. Cigarette smoking increases a person’s risk of developing RA and can make the disease worse.  
  • Age. RA most commonly begins between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Environmental exposures. Some exposures such as asbestos or silica may increase the risk for developing RA. 
  • Obesity. Overweight or obese people are at higher risk of developing RA.
Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed by reviewing symptoms, conducting a physical examination, and doing X-rays and lab tests. A doctor will check the joints for swelling, redness and warmth. He or she may also check reflexes and muscle strength.
Treatments include medications, rest and exercise, physical/occupational therapy, and surgery to correct damage to the joint. The goals of RA treatment are mainly to control a patient's symptoms, prevent joint damage, and maintain the patient’s quality of life and ability to function. 
  • RA affects more than 1.3 million people in the United States. 
  • 2.5x more common in women than men.
  • Usually occurs between the ages of 20-50
  • RA causes joint damage in 80-85% of patients.
  • The average annual incidence in the United States is about 70 per 100,000 annually. 
about rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

  • "Rheumatoid Arthritis." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 Mar. 2016. Web. 18 May 2017.
  • "Handout on Health: Rheumatoid Arthritis." National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Feb. 2016. Web. 18 May 2017.
  • "Rheumatoid Arthritis Fact Sheet." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Mar. 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
  • "Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms & Treatment." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 25 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 May 2017.
  • "Rheumatoid Arthritis : Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment." Arthritis Information. Johns Hopkins Health Systems, 13 Jan. 2016. Web. 18 May 2017.


People suffering from arthritis and RMDs often see a decrease in their quality of life. They are unable to enjoy the same activities they once enjoyed and often have difficulty carrying out everyday functions they once used to do with ease. However, there are plenty of things people can do to prevent this from happening. Here are five ways to reduce the risk of arthritis:
world arthritis day

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