Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition that affects approximately 45,000 people in Ireland. This chronic illness affects three times more women than men – about 70% of people who have RA are female. RA can occur at any age, but is most commonly diagnosed between 30 and 50.
As RA is an autoimmune condition, the body’s immune system starts to target otherwise healthy tissue and joints in the body, leading to inflamed, hot and swollen joints. Small joints in the body, such as fingers, wrists, knees and elbows, are most commonly affected. This can lead to many symptoms, including joint pain, reduced movement and stiffness. Indeed, early morning stiffness that lasts longer than 30 minutes can be an early sign of RA.