Health conditions

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease affecting the lining of your body’s joints, most often the smaller joints, such as in your:

  • hands
  • feet.

RA can also affect the joints in the:

  • hips
  • knees
  • spine (especially neck).

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

Although the cause of RA is unknown, contributing factors may include:

  • a family history
  • stressful events.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of RA may vary from person to person. However, some of the most common symptoms include:

  • symmetrical joint pain and swelling
  • a pattern of joint pain and tightness that comes and goes
  • symptoms that are worse at night
  • joint stiffness in the morning and after rest
  • generally feeling unwell.
  • symptoms involving body systems (heart, lungs, skin).

Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis

Your doctor will diagnose RA from:

  • your symptoms
  • a physical examination
  • other tests, such as:
    • blood tests
    • X-rays.

Treatment and management of rheumatoid arthritis

It is critical to diagnose RA early so you can start the right treatment, at the right time. This will mean a better outcome for you and can prevent irreversible joint damage.

If you are diagnosed with RA, your doctor may refer you to a doctor who specialises in arthritis – a rheumatologist.

Rheumatologists perform a thorough examination. They determine the best treatment options for you and medications suitable for your treatment.

They may also refer you to other healthcare professionals, such as a:

  • physiotherapist
  • occupational therapist
  • podiatrist.                                                                                                                             

Where to get help



This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

See also

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