chapter  1
Rheumatoid Arthritis
WithVictoria Ruffi ng
Pages 7

Rheumatoid arthritis or RA is an infl ammatory polyarthritis often leading to joint destruction, deformity and loss of function. Swelling of the small joints, especially hands and feet, is the hallmark of the disease. Chronic pain, disability and excess mortality are common results of this disease. RA causes joint damage in 80% to 85% of patients, with the brunt of the damage occurring during the fi rst 2 years of the disease.1,2 Left untreated, the risk of mortality is high. Untreated people with RA are twice as likely to die compared with unaffected people the same age.3 Common causes of mortality in RA include cardiovascular disease, which accounts for approximately one third to one half of RA-related deaths, and infection, which is associated with approximately one quarter of such deaths.4 RA is also known to be associated with higher risks for lymphoma, anemia, osteoporosis and depression.