What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

About 1% of the world's population is afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis (RA), women three times more often than men. Onset is most frequent between the ages of 40 and 50, but people of any age can be affected. It can be a disabling and painful condition, which can lead to substantial loss of functioning and mobility if not adequately treated. It is a clinical diagnosis made on the basis of symptoms, physical exam, radiographs (X-rays) and labs, although the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) publish diagnostic guidelines. Diagnosis and long-term management are typically performed by a rheumatologist, an expert in auto-immune diseases.

RA is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks synovial joints. The process produces an inflammatory response of the synovium (synovitis) secondary to hyperplasia of synovial cells, excess synovial fluid, and the development of pannus in the synovium. The pathology of the disease process often leads to the destruction of articular cartilage and ankylosis of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can also produce diffuse inflammation in the lungs, pericardium, pleura, and sclera, and also nodular lesions, most common in subcutaneous tissue. Although the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, autoimmunity plays a pivotal role in both its chronicity and progression, and RA is considered a systemic autoimmune disease.

Various treatments are available. Non-pharmacological treatment includes physical therapy, orthoses, occupational therapy and nutritional therapy but do not stop progression of joint destruction. Analgesia (painkillers) and anti-inflammatory drugs, including steroids, are used to suppress the symptoms, while disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are required to inhibit or halt the underlying immune process and prevent long-term damage. In recent times, the newer group of biologics has increased treatment options. Source: Wikipedia



Rheumatoid Arthritis research trends

Common research areas include:

  • The immune systems
  • Genetics
  • Families with rheumatoid arthritis
  • New drugs or drug combinations
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and disability
  • Preventing related health problems
  • Quality of life for people with rheumatoid arthritis.


FORWARD and Rheumatoid Arthritis research

What are your important concerns about living with a rheumatic disease like arthritis? Is your treatment effective? We believe that rheumatic disease research needs the personal perspective of people who have rheumatic diseases.

FORWARD conducts patient-reported research. All of our data comes directly from people with RA, which gives us the ability to see how people live with RA in the real world. We focus on treatment safety, costs and outcomes (how well treatments work).

Anyone with RA (or any rheumatic disease) is welcome to participate and lend a hand in improving treatment and care. Learn more about participating.