What is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of over 100 different types of arthritis. While most types of arthritis become more likely to occur as we age, RA can attack at any age. In fact, this particularly painful and potentially disabling type of arthritis most commonly strikes between the ages of 40 and 60, although it can strike children and teens as well.

This painful condition affects about 300,000 Canadians, and women are 3 times as likely as men to develop RA.

RA is a type of rheumatic or inflammatory disease, a disease that causes pain and inflammation of joints and muscles and even internal organs such as the heart. Joint damage can also occur, which can often be seen in X-rays. RA can lead to loss of joint function, loss of productivity, and difficulty performing everyday activities. Other examples of inflammatory diseases include ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis. When left untreated, RA may result in joint swelling and damage and pain severe enough to affect your ability to work or perform everyday tasks like dressing and cooking.

healthy joint vs. joint with rheumatoid arthritis

But RA doesn't need to come between you and your ability to live your life. In recent years, research and treatments have given new hope to people living with RA. Early and appropriate treatment can control signs and symptoms of RA and slow or prevent damage to joints. This can be done through arming yourself with knowledge about your condition, and through a tailored treatment plan that includes a combination of medication, exercise, and other strategies.

If you suffer from RA, it's important for your doctor to understand how it affects your well-being and level of functioning. Fill out the following table by circling the answers that best apply to you. If you have any circles in the "No" or "Not at all" columns, you should see your doctor to discuss your current treatment and how it could be better tailored to relieve your symptoms.

Is my RA under control?




Not at all

I have joint pain.



Yes, frequent flares and new spots of inflammation

I have stiffness in the morning.


Yes, for less than 1 hour

Yes, for 1 hour or more

Fatigue bothers me.




My ability to perform normal day-to-day tasks is:



Very limited

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