What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic, autoimmune disease, is the most crippling form of arthritis and affects approximately 2.1 million Americans. This disease is characterized by painful and stiff joints on both sides of the body that may become enlarged and deformed.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects more women than men (70 percent of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis are women). Onset of the disease is usually middle-age, but it does occur in individuals as early as age 20. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may also have osteoporosis, a progressive deterioration of bone density.

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a form of arthritis in children ages 15 or younger that causes inflammation and stiffness of joints for more than six weeks. Unlike adult rheumatoid arthritis, which is chronic and lasts a lifetime, children often outgrow juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. However, the disease can affect bone development in the growing child.

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