What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly starts attacking healthy joints

Symptoms and signs of rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Joint pain, swelling and stiffness
  • General physical symptoms such as fatigue and muscle pain

Other symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Flu-like symptoms, including low-grade fever
  • Worse joint stiffness after sleeping or prolonged sitting
  • Flares of disease activity followed by periods of remission or disease inactivity
  • Rheumatoid nodules (lumps of tissue under the skin)
  • Loss of appetite and/or weight loss

The pain, stiffness and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis can make it difficult to perform daily activities such as:

  • Getting in and out of bed
  • Bathing and drying yourself
  • Lifting a glass to your mouth
  • Tying shoelaces or doing buttons
  • Turning taps on and off
  • Walking outdoors on flat ground
  • Running errands or doing chores

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

The exact cause is unknown, but rheumatoid arthritis may result from a combination of factors, including:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Environmental influences
  • Immune system

To prevent the progression of joint damage, proper diagnosis and treatment are essential. If you’re experiencing the symptoms listed above, talk to your GP who may refer you to a rheumatologist – a doctor who specialises in arthritis, musculoskeletal pain conditions and autoimmune diseases.

Talk with your doctor

We’ve put together a discussion guide that you can take along to your rheumatologist visit in order to share your symptoms.

Download your ‘Getting ready for your rheumatologist visit’ guide

Download your Guide