Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation in the small joints of the hands and feet. The inflammation causes painful swelling and results in joint deformity. About 2 in 100 men and 4 in 100 women develop rheumatoid arthritis.

It usually begins after age 40, but can occur also at earlier ages. It is estimated that two-thirds of the risk for rheumatoid arthritis is genetic in origin. The genetic makeup does not really cause the disease, but it makes a person more susceptible to environmental factors.

The triggers for rheumatoid arthritis may be bacterial or viral infections. One of the major risk factors is smoking. Rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured; the treatment aims at reducing the number and severity of flares (worsening of symptoms) and preventing long-term damage to the joints.

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