Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory form of arthritis that causes joint pain and damage. Rheumatoid arthritis attacks the lining of your joints (synovium) causing swelling that can result in aching and throbbing and eventually deformity. Sometimes rheumatoid arthritis symptoms make even the simplest activities – such as opening a jar or taking a walk – difficult to manage.

Rheumatoid arthritis is two to three times more common in women than in men and generally occurs between the ages of 40 and 60. But rheumatoid arthritis can also affect young children (see juvenile idiopathic arthritis) and older adults.

There's no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. With proper treatment, a strategy for joint protection and changes in lifestyle, you can live a long, productive life with rheumatoid arthritis.


Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Joints that are tender to the touch
  • Red and puffy hands
  • Firm bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms (rheumatoid nodules)
  • Fatigue
  • Morning stiffness that lasts at least 30 minutes
  • Fever
  • Weight loss


Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when white blood cells – whose usual job is to attack unwanted invaders, such as bacteria and viruses – move from your bloodstream into the membranes that surround your joints (synovium). The blood cells appear to play a role in causing the synovium to become inflamed. The inflammation causes the release of proteins that, over months or years, cause the synovium to thicken. The proteins can also damage the cartilage, bone, tendons and ligaments near your joint. Gradually, the joint loses its shape and alignment. Eventually, it may be destroyed.

Doctors don't know what causes this process that leads to rheumatoid arthritis. It's likely that rheumatoid arthritis occurs as a result of a complex combination of factors, including your genes, your lifestyle choices, such as smoking, and things in your environment, such as viruses.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Sex. Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men are.
  • Age. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs most commonly between the ages of 40 and 60. However, it can also occur in older adults and in children (juvenile idiopathic arthritis).
  • Family history. If a member of your family has rheumatoid arthritis, you may have an increased risk of the disease. Doctors don't believe you can directly inherit rheumatoid arthritis. Instead, it's believed that you can inherit a predisposition to rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Smoking. Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Quitting can reduce your risk.

Source: Mayoclinic.com