Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. This condition can also affect the tissues surrounding the joints (muscles, tendons, ligaments) as well as other organs of the body (skin, blood vessels, heart, lungs and muscles).
RA is a chronic condition and it tends to last for many years though there are periods in between when the patient is without any symptom. RA is a progressive condition and over a period of time, it causes joint destruction and functional disability.
Scientists largely believe that the tendency to develop rheumatoid arthritis may be genetically inherited. It is also suspected that certain infections or factors in the environment might trigger the immune system to attack the body's own tissues (Autoimmune response), resulting in inflammation.
The disease is three times more common in women as compared to men. It afflicts people of all races equally. The disease can begin at any age, but peak incidence is seen between 40 to 60 years of age.