Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic systemic disease that primarily affects the
joints. Presentation is typically as an insidious polyarthritis characterised
by inflammatory changes in the synovial membranes and articular structures leading
to deformity and ankylosis. Systemic features usually develop as the disease progresses.
RA affects between 0.5% and 1% of the population
- approximately 400,000 people in England and Wales have this condition
- incidence of the condition is around 1.5 men and 3.6 women developing RA
per 10,000 people per year.
- translates into approximately 12,000 people developing RA per year
in the UK
- overall occurrence of RA is two to four times greater in women than men.
The peak age of incidence in the UK for both genders is the 70s, but people
of all ages can develop the disease (3)
- life expectancy of people with RA is reduced by 5 -10 years compared with
that of people without the condition, and 35 - 50% of this excess risk is
accounted for by cardiovascular (CV) mortality
- approximately one third of people stop work because of the disease within
2 years of onset, and this prevalence increases thereafter. The total costs
of RA in the UK, including indirect costs and work-related disability, have
been estimated at between £3.8 and £4.75 billion per year (3)
The cause is unknown, but an autoimmune mechanism involving viral infection has
- Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin 1998; 36 (1): 3-6.
- MeReC Bulletin 2007; 17 (5):1-8.
- NICE (February 2009). Rheumatoid
arthritis- The management of rheumatoid arthritis in adults