According to the Arthritis Foundation, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects about 1.3 million Americans.
Although rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age from childhood to old age, onset usually begins between the ages of 30 - 50 years.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the term used for arthritis that affects children. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis often resolves before adulthood. Patients who experience arthritis in only a few joints do better than those with more widespread (systemic) disease, which is very difficult to treat. (Note: This report primarily discusses rheumatoid arthritis in adults.)
Women are more likely to develop RA than men.
Some people may inherit genes that make them more susceptible to developing RA, but a family history of RA does not appear to increase an individual's risk.
Heavy long-term smoking is a very strong risk factor for RA, particularly in patients without a family history of the disease.
Review Date: 02/16/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.