Rheumatoid Arthritis


Americans and 1% of the global population are living with rheumatoid arthritis.


Women are three times more likely than men to develop RA


of people with RA eventually test positive for the Rheumatoid factor (RF) antibody

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition. Autoimmune conditions occur when the body’s immune system mistakes its own tissues for foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses. The confused immune system springs into action, seeking out to destroy the “invaders” in the tissues.

In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, this results in chronic, sometimes severe, joint pain and inflammation. [1]

Who is affected?

Anyone can be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. But women are about two to three times more likely to get rheumatoid arthritis than men [2]. The condition generally starts between the ages of 30 and 60 in women and somewhat later in life in men [3].

What happens in your body?

Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include: [1] [4]

  • Joint pain, stiffness, and/or swelling (commonly in fingers, wrists, and feet, but also in elbow, hip, shoulder, knee, back) lasting longer than 30 minutes in the morning or after sitting
  • Fatigue
  • Eye redness and pain, and sensitivity to light
  • Firm lumps beneath the skin, primarily in the hands (on knuckles), elbows, or ankles (also called rheumatoid nodules)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle ache
  • Chest pain or discomfort and difficulty breathing

Inflammation resulting from rheumatoid arthritis can extend beyond joints, and attack organs, such as the heart, the lungs, or other tissues like muscles, cartilage, and ligaments. This is because rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can worsen over time if not managed through appropriate treatments. [4]

Rheumatoid arthritis-related inflammation usually occurs in symmetry. This means that, if joints on one side of your body are impacted, joints on the other side of your body will be impacted as well [4]. But this may not be the case initially. Many people with rheumatoid arthritis report only experiencing symptoms on one side of the body in early stages. [5]

How do I know if I have Rheumatoid Arthritis?

In its early stages, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of other conditions. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible to make sure that the condition does not worsen. The best way to do this is by visiting your doctor and, if possible, getting a referral to visit a rheumatologist, a doctor with specialized training in treating arthritis.[4]

Some ways that your doctor can assess whether you have the condition is through reviewing your medical history, and conducting a physical examination and lab tests (such as blood tests and imaging tests). [4]