Autoimmune Arthritis: What Is It?


Autoimmune diseases cause your body’s immune system to mistakenly attack normal cells. In autoimmune arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), your immune system attacks the lining of your joints. This inflammation is not confined to the joints and can affect other body organs.

Symptoms vary greatly from person to person, as does the rate of progression. While there’s no cure for this long-term condition, a variety of treatments can help improve your quality of life.

Symptoms of autoimmune arthritis

Symptoms generally begin slowly and can come and go. Joint pain and inflammation affect both sides of the body equally, and can be marked by these signs and symptoms:

  • deformed joints
  • hard bumps of tissue (nodules) under the skin on your arms
  • reduced range of motion
  • dry mouth
  • difficulty sleeping
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • eye inflammation, dry eyes, itchy eyes, eye discharge
  • fever
  • anemia
  • chest pain when you breathe (pleurisy)

Prevalence of autoimmune diseases and arthritis

More than 23.5 million people in the United States are affected by an autoimmune disease. It’s one of the top causes of disability and death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source, about 1.5 million adults in the United States have RA. Nearly 300,000 children in the United States live with some form of arthritis or rheumatic condition.

Risk factors

Your likelihood of developing autoimmune arthritis can be affected by certain risk factors. For instance, risk factors for RA include:

  • Your gender: Women develop RA at a higher rate than men.
  • Your age: RA can develop at any age, but most people begin to notice symptoms between the ages of 49 and 60 years.
  • Your family history: You’re at increased risk of having RA if other family members have it.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking can increase your chances of developing RA. Quitting can lower your risk.