A type of autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis causes swelling, pain, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. This type of arthritis is different from others because it generally occurs in a symmetrical pattern, meaning that if one hand is affected, the other will be as well. Rheumatoid arthritis affects people differently; some have the condition only temporarily and it goes away without causing noticeable damage, while others have a severe form that lasts a lifetime and can lead to serious joint damage and disability.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. It has several special features that make it different from other kinds of arthritis. For example, it generally occurs in a symmetrical pattern, meaning that if one knee or hand is involved, the other one also is. Rheumatoid arthritis often affects the wrist joints and the finger joints closest to the hand. It can also affect other parts of the body besides the joints. In addition, people with rheumatoid arthritis may have fatigue, occasional fevers, and a general sense of not feeling well.
How Common Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?Scientists estimate that about 2.1 million people, or between 0.5 percent and 1 percent of the U.S. adult population, have rheumatoid arthritis. Interestingly, some recent studies have suggested that the overall number of new cases may actually be going down. Scientists are investigating why this may be happening.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs in all races and ethnic groups. Although the disease often begins in middle age and occurs with increased frequency in older people, children and young adults also develop it. Like some other forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis occurs much more frequently in women than in men. About two to three times as many women as men have the disease.