Rheumatoid Arthritis

View All Arthritis Types Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic inflammatory disease that can affect multiple joints in the body. Although its cause is still unknown, RA is believed to be the result of a malfunctioning immune system.

With RA, inflammation manifests in the lining of the joints causing pain, swelling, joint damage and deformity. It can occasionally involve other internal organs, such as the nerves, eyes, lungs or heart.

The symptoms and progression of RA vary widely from person to person. In many cases RA starts in a few joints then spreads to other joints over a few weeks to months. However, RA can also progress extremely rapidly; some people report that one morning they just could not get out of bed.

The earliest symptoms of RA can be non-specific, including feeling unwell or tired, soreness in or around joints, low-grade fever, and weight loss/poor appetite. As time goes on, RA can involve more and more joints on both sides of the body, often in a “symmetrical” pattern.
 View All Arthritis Types

Did you know?

  • About one out of every 100 adult Canadians has rheumatoid arthritis (RA). That’s about 300,000 Canadians.
  • Anyone can get RA at any age.
  • RA affects women two to three times more often than men.
  • There is no cure for RA. However, people who are diagnosed and treated early can avoid damage to their joints and lead active and productive lives.
Early signs of RA
How is RA diagnosed?
Why is treatment for RA so important?
Joints affected by RA
Risk factors
Therapies, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, physical activity, healthy eating and relaxation techniques, are a very important part of the management of RA. It is always best to speak with your health-care provider about any and all treatments you are considering.
Physical Activity
Heat and Cold Therapy
Protecting Your Joints
Healthy Eating and Weight Control
Relaxation and Coping Skills
Complementary Therapies
Arthritis medications are designed to control a disease, slow its progression, and to help manage pain. There is a wide range of options – with new ones coming on the horizon – so understanding all possible treatments is not easy. 

These medications can be very complex, so you are encouraged to ask for in-depth explanations from your health care team – including pharmacists, who are an excellent source of information. 

To explore this area of treatment, The Arthritis Society has developed a comprehensive expert guide that delivers detailed information on medications used to treat arthritis.

Explore the Arthritis Medications A Reference Guide

The optimal treatment is what is best in each individual case – so speak with your doctor and/or pharmacist about what kind of medications are most appropriate for you.

Educational Programs 

The Arthritis Society provides a range of in-person workshops and online programs, all with a specific focus in mind. They include chronic pain management, overcoming fatigue, understanding your health-care team, symptom checkers, and more. Participants learn new information and skills, and for in-person workshops, can share ideas and experiences with others.

Explore arthritis workshops and courses


Discover information you can trust, because it’s based on evidence and vetted by experts, in The Society’s resource area. Learn about each disease, possible treatments, self-management, lifestyle issues, and so much more.

Browse publications

answer tool
Are You Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Visit the ANSWER tool, a medication decision aid tool to help you find out if Methetrexate is the right treatment option for you.

Rachel Janzen
Tell Us Your Story

"But you look so healthy?!". "But you're too young for arthritis!". Just a few of the things I hear many times a day about my struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. I think to myself, "If you had any idea of the pain I endure on a daily basis you might not be so quick to make those comments,"

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Online Arthritis Self Management Courses

Online education programs that are informative, convenient and FREE.

Arthritis Community
Arthritis Community

Connect with others, share your arthritis experience and get answers in a safe online space.

Printed publications
Arthritis Publications

Evidence-based content to help you learn about the disease, treatments and self-management.

Help Fight Arthritis Help Fight Arthritis

Arthritis Research
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Help find a cure by supporting the best and brightest researchers who are investigating ways to prevent and treat arthritis.

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