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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is different from osteoarthritis, the common arthritis that often comes with older age. RA can affect body parts besides joints, such as your eyes, mouth and lungs. RA is an autoimmune disease, which means the arthritis results from the immune system attacking the body's own tissues. No one knows what causes rheumatoid arthritis. Genes, environment and hormones might contribute. Rheumatoid arthritis can be hard to diagnose because there is no single test for the disease, the symptoms can be the same as other kinds of joint disease, and the full symptoms can take time to develop.

Internet Resources

MedlinePlus: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Developed at the National Library of Medicine specifically for health care consumers, this site is excellent for trusted sources of government-sponsored and privately developed health information targeting the lay public.

National Institutes of Health: Rheumatoid Arthritis
From the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (part of NIH), this page provides an overview of rheumatoid arthritis.

Mayo Clinic: Rheumatoid Arthritis
The Mayo Clinic has an online health information library that is regularly reviewed by Mayo physicians and staff.

The Arthritis Foundation
The Arthritis Foundation offers information and tools to help people live a better life with arthritis: advice from medical experts, specialized arthritis self-management or exercise classes, and research funding.


  • Rheumatoid arthritis, 2nd ed. Moreland L. 2008
  • 100 questions and answers about arthritis. Quinn C. 2008
  • Primer on the rheumatic diseases. Klippel JH et al. 2008.
  • Yoga for arthritis: the complete guide. Fishman LM, Saltonstall E. 2008.
  • Out of Joint: A Private and Public Story of Arthritis. Felstiner M. 2005.

All references below are available in print at the Health Learning Center or electronically at http://www.nmh.org/nm/health+library+virtual+library.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis. Meszaros L. Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Longe JL, ed. Vol. 4. 3rd ed. 2006. p3232-3236.


  • Hand and wrist.
  • Foot and ankle.


  • “Workout for aching hands. Stretching, strengthening, and range of motion exercises can help relieve pain and prevent injury.” Harvard Women’s Health Watch. 18(2):2-3. October 2010.
  • “I’ve heard of corticosteroid and hyaluronic acid injections for arthritis pain relief. What’s the difference, and are they effective for both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis?” Duke Medicine Health News. 16(7):8. July 2010.
  • “Combination therapy for pain management in inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, other spondyloarthritis). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (10):CD008886. 2011.


Contact the Arthritis Foundation at
National Office: 800-283-7800
In Chicago: 312-372-2080 or 800-735-0096
Web site:http://www.arthritis.org/chapters/illinois/

Contact Us

For more information, please contact the Health Learning Center at 312-926-5465 or HLC@nmh.org.

Last UpdateDecember 13, 2011