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Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, disabling auto-immune disease. It is characterised by inflammation in the peripheral joints, which causes swelling, stiffness, pain and progressive joint destruction. However, RA is also a multisystem disorder that affects other areas of the body including the eyes, lungs and cardiovascular system. The estimated prevalence of RA in adults in England is 1.4%, equating to around 580,000 people (National Audit Office 2009). RA affects three times as many women as men and has a peak age of onset of 40–70 years. Life expectancy in patients with RA is reduced: a 50-year-old woman with RA is expected to die 4 years earlier than a 50-year-old woman without RA. Early diagnosis, timely referral and holistic management of the condition are the keys to optimising outcomes.

This resource, consisting of five assessment questions at intermediate level, tests your knowledge of the diagnosis and management of RA based on national guidance. Complete the resource, including the further reading and some or all of the suggested activities, to obtain a certificate for one hour of continuing professional development to include in your annual portfolio.

Aims and objectives

On completion of this resource, you should have an understanding of:

  • The importance of history taking in people with suspected RA
  • The role of the RA register in general practice
  • The importance of early referral for people with suspected RA
  • The importance of CVD risk assessment in RA
  • The importance of fracture risk assessment in RA

Further reading

Arthritis Research UK. The approach to the patient presenting with multiple joint pain, 2012

NICE CG79. Rheumatoid arthritis: The management of rheumatoid arthritis in adults, 2009


Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network (RASN) 

Further education and training

Relevant courses from Education for Health 

Assessing and managing joint problems in primary care: the knee – interactive study day

Assessing and managing patients with joint pain – eLearning (supported by 2 study days)

Date of preparation: September 2014                                 

Review date: September 2015