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What is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that causes pain and swelling in the joints. Often the feet and hands are most affected. Other symptoms include fever and exhaustion. Joints become painful and stiff and may become permanently damaged over time. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, and its cause is unknown.

Rheumatoid arthritis usually begins between age 30 and age 60, but can begin anytime. It tends to affect hands and feet first, but can affect any joints. Joint symptoms include pain, stiffness, heat, redness, tenderness and erosion of bones in affected joints for bone symptoms. Pain symmetry usually occurs in joints on both sides of the body (e.g., both wrists or both ankles). Blood test results include detection of inflammation and anemia.

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic and potentially debilitating inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. This autoimmune disease occurs when the body's immune system attacks and damages the joints and, sometimes, other organs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.