Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a condition where your immune system mistakenly targets and attacks your own body (commonly known as an autoimmune condition). In RA, the immune system commonly targets the lining of the joints, causing inflammation and joint damage.

Symptoms can include painful, swollen, stiff, warm, and tender joints. People with RA often notice changes in symptoms over time, with ‘flare-ups’ followed by periods of decreased inflammation.

Because RA is a systemic disease, or a disease that targets your whole body, many of your joints and other organs can be affected.

What causes RA?

More research is being done to understand the causes of RA. The following factors may increase your risk of developing RA.

  • Smoking
  • Having an infection. There is some evidence to suggest that RA can be triggered by some infections and viruses. However, you cannot ‘catch’ RA from another person
  • Gender – females are more likely to have RA
  • RA is more common in people with a family history.

What can I do to manage my RA?

Firstly, make sure you have an accurate diagnosis. It is best to visit your general practitioner (GP) first, to get appropriate tests and to come up with a treatment plan. If your doctor suspects that you have RA, you will be urgently referred to a rheumatologist (arthritis specialist) for treatment and advice.

The best approach to treatment is a team approach.

You are the most important member of your healthcare team. Your team may also involve:

  • Your GP
  • Specialists (such as rheumatologists and orthopaedic specialists)
  • Allied health professionals (such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists)
  • Community organisations that may assist you physically or mentally
  • Your friends and family who support you.


MyRA is is an online tool designed to help people with RA seize control and become active participants in their journey with RA. 

Everyone's RA journey is different. Some people are just starting their journey while others have been on the journey for decades. 

By providing you with quality information about RA, some simple management skills and the opportunity to share the experience of others, we can help everyone live a better life with RA. 


Many researchers are looking into new ways of diagnosing, treating and managing RA and other inflammatory forms of arthritis. Learn more about some of the research projects we support here

More information and support

Order your free booklet Taking control of your Rheumatoid Arthritis

Register for Arthritis Assist to speak one-on-one with someone else living with arthritis. 

Join one of our online support groups to connect with other Australians living with arthritis. 

Register for our online exercise program, Arthritis Moves!