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What Are Rheumatoid Arthritis Flares?

I was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. An acquaintance of mine who also has the disease has talked in the past about her rheumatoid arthritis "flares." I never understood the term but, out of respect for her privacy, I never asked her to explain it. Now that I have the disease, I'd like to know if it is something I should expect. What are rheumatoid arthritis flares?

 
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Answer

Rheumatoid arthritis affects people differently. For some people, symptoms last only a few months or a year or two and go away without causing any noticeable damage. Other people have mild or moderate forms of the disease, with periods of worsening symptoms (called flares) and periods in which they feel better (called remissions). Others may have a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis that is active most of the time, lasts for many years or a lifetime, and leads to serious joint damage and disability.
 
Sometimes flares seem to have obvious causes or triggers, but for many people, the flares and remissions seem to occur at random.
 
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