How common is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis affects up to 1% of adults.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis affects women two to three times as often as men.1
  • Rheumatoid arthritis can begin at any age, but most often begins between the ages of 40 and 60.1
  • While rheumatoid arthritis occurs in all racial and ethnic groups, over 5% of certain Native Americans (the Chippewa and Pima Tribes) have the disease.2

It tends to be worse in smokers than in nonsmokers.

The only known risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis is a possible inherited factor in some families (genetic predisposition). A genetic factor may affect how the immune system functions, causing inflammation and eventual destruction of the membranes lining the joints.

Citations

  1. Firestein GS (2007). Rheumatoid arthritis. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 15, chap. 2. New York: WebMD.
  2. O'Dell JR (2005). Rheumatoid arthritis: The clinical picture. In WJ Koopman, LW Moreland, eds., Arthritis and Allied Conditions: A Textbook of Rheumatology, 15th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1165–1194. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Last Updated: August 18, 2008

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology

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