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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disorder of the joints. It causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints.
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RA is caused by a problem with the immune system. It begins to attack healthy tissue. It is not clear what makes this happen. It is most likely a combination of factors in your genes and environment. Some known factors include:
RA is more common in:
Other factors that may increase your chance of developing RA include:
Symptoms involve two or more joints which are usually:
RA may also cause:
Inflammation may also occur in:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. There are many diseases that can mimic RA. Tests will help to rule out other conditions.
Tests may include:
The doctor will look at all your symptoms and test results to reach a diagnosis.
There is no cure for RA. The goal of treatment is to slow down the damage to the joint. It can also help:
There are a variety of medicines to treat the pain and inflammation of RA. One or more of the following type of medicine may be recommended:
Rest can reduce joint inflammation and pain. It can also fight fatigue.
Exercise is important for maintaining muscle strength and flexibility. It also preserves joint motion.
Maintain a balance between rest and exercise.
Splints may help to reduce pain. Stress on joints from daily activities may be reduced with:
Chronic pain can be very stressful. Stress can also increase the sensation of pain and its impact on day to day life. Options to help can include:
Surgery may be needed if there is severe damage or loss of function. Option include:
RA is not preventable because the cause is unknown.
American College of Rheumatology
The Arthritis Society
Canadian Rheumatology Association
Rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/rheumatoid-arthritis. Accessed June 5, 2018.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/joint-disorders/rheumatoid-arthritis-ra. Updated February 2017. Accessed June 5, 2018.
Rheumatoid arthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Rheumatic_Disease/default.asp. Updated April 30, 2017. Accessed June 5, 2018.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115261/Rheumatoid-arthritis-RA. Updated May 2, 2018. Accessed June 5, 2018.
Tanaka E, Saito A, Kamitsuji S, et al. Impact of shoulder, elbow, and knee joint involvement on assessment of rheumatoid arthritis using the American College of Rheumatology Core Data Set. Arthritis Rheum. 2005;53(3):864-871.
Verstappen SM, Bijlsma JW, Verkleij H, et al. Overview of work disability in rheumatoid arthritis patients as observed in cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys. Arthritis Rheum. 2004;51(3):488-497.
4/16/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115261/Rheumatoid-arthritis-RA. Zautra AJ, Davis MC, Reich JW, et al. Comparison of cognitive behavioral and mindfulness meditation interventions on adaptation to rheumatoid arthritis for patients with and without history of recurrent depression. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2008;76(3):408-421.
1/4/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115261/Rheumatoid-arthritis-RA: Anis A, Zhang W, Emery P, et al. The effect of etanercept on work productivity in patients with early active rheumatoid arthritis: results from the COMET study. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2009;48(10):1283-1289.
1/4/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115261/Rheumatoid-arthritis-RA: Aletaha D, Neogi T, Silman AJ, Funovits J, et al. 2010 rheumatoid arthritis classification criteria: an American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism collaborative initiative. Ann Rheum Dis. 2010;69(9):1580-1588.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 5/13/2016