Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation in the joints and certain other organs throughout the body. It is called an autoimmune disorder. It is believed that the body’s immune system accidentally mistakes its own tissues for foreign invaders. The immune system attacks the joints and organs, causing damage.
Researchers are not sure what causes the immune system to respond so destructively. It may be caused by a combination of factors, including:
More than two million Americans (about 1% of the total population) have rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/ .
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National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ .
Last reviewed September 2011 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 9/22/2011
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