Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a painful condition where your own body “attacks” the lining of the joints. Read on to learn more about what causes it, its common symptoms, and the goals of RA treatments.

What is arthritis?

The word arthritis means inflammation (itis) of the joint (arthr). Arthritis is not just one condition, but over 100 different conditions that can cause the pain and inflammation in the joint. Arthritis affects close to 4.5 million Canadians of both sexes, every age, physical condition and ethnic background.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of arthritis where your own body “attacks” the lining of the joints.  This condition is considered an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is a condition where the body’s immune system becomes confused and for some reason attacks healthy tissue in the body. When the immune system attacks the lining of the joints it causes fluid to build up in the joint, causing pain and inflammation in the joint.


What causes RA?

The exact cause of RA is unknown. Experts know it happens when the body’s immune system attacks the lining of the joints. Infection, family history and hormone changes may be linked to the disease.


How common is RA?

About 1 out of every 100 Canadians has RA. This means there are about 300,000 Canadians living with RA.


What joints are affected by RA?

RA most commonly affects the following joints:
  • Wrists
  • Elbows
  • Shoulders
  • Fingers
  • Knees
  • Feet
  • Ankles


What are the symptoms of RA?

The symptoms of RA vary person to person and can even change on a daily basis. It usually begins slowly and starts in a few joints and then slowly spreading to other joints over a few weeks to a few months. It normally starts with some unusual pain and stiffness in the joints. 
The most common symptoms include:
  • Morning stiffness which lasts more than 1 hour 
  • Joints may feel warm, tender and stiff
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of motion of the joint
  • Fatigue
  • Over time, the joint can breakdown and start to become deformed


What are the goals of treating RA?

Unfortunately there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Your doctor will work with you to find a treatment that:
  • Helps to control the symptoms of RA
  • Slows the condition from getting any worse. The treatment should reduce the number of arthritic flares (where the pain gets worse)
  • Treats the pain, stiffness, fatigue, prevent further joint damage and destruction
  • Improves the quality of life of the person with rheumatoid arthritis


Important information

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