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.
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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