Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic (long-term) condition that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. It is a systemic rheumatic disease, which means that the disease can affect the entire body.
It is one of the most common types of inflammatory arthritis and is estimated to affect 1% of the population.
RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning that it occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. The reason why it does this is not well understood. When the body’s immune system is “activated” in this way, it can make a person feel very tired, similar to when they have the flu.
It is very important that RA is treated as early and aggressively as possible to put out the “fire” in patients’ joints. This prevents further joint damage that can ultimately have crippling effects, and can reduce the risk of other problems associated with chronic inflammation, such as heart disease.
People usually notice the first signs of RA between the ages of 25 and 50. The disease is about three times more common in women than men.
With proper treatment, many patients with RA can enjoy active and productive lives, and prevent long-term damage to their joints.