Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term autoimmune condition that affects the body’s joints, particularly the hands, feet and wrists.
It is the second most common form of arthritis in the UK after osteoarthritis, and affects one per cent of the UK population.
The disease triggers inflammation in the joints that can lead to pain and swelling.
Groups at an increased risk of the condition include women, those with a family history and smokers.
Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to complications, and in certain cases they can prove life-threatening.
These include carpal tunnels syndrome, inflammation of other areas of the body such as lungs, heart and eyes, and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Here are the causes, symptoms and treatment of the condition.
What are the causes?
According to the NHS, rheumatoid arthritis develops when the immune system, which usually fights infection, attacks the cells that line the joints by mistake.
Over time this can damage the joint, cartilage and nearby bone.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms usually develop over several days or weeks, but may come and go.
According to the NHS, the condition mainly affects the joints, particularly the small joints in the hands and feet.
This can include join pain, joint stiffness and swollen, warm and red joints.
Other symptoms can include numb and tinging hands, tiredness, a fever, sweating, loss of appetite and weight loss.
What is the treatment?
While there’s no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, early diagnosis can allow for effective treatment.
Often the condition can be managed so that there are months or even years between flare-ups, according to the NHS.
Treatment options include medication, physiotherapy and surgery.