Rheumatoid arthritis

"The goals of treatment are to decrease patients' symptoms and disability and to prevent permanent damage to the joints".


What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the joints become inflamed, producing pain, deformity and difficulty in movement, although it can also affect other parts of the body.

It is a chronic disease, with a low frequency of spontaneous cure, although with a suitable treatment a good control of the disease is obtained in most of the cases.

It is more frequent in women, but it also affects men. It occurs most frequently between the ages of 45 and 55. Also, a very similar form of arthritis can affect children.

Whereas in the arthritis a slow process of wearing away of the articular cartilage exists (the weave that covers the bone and acts of shock absorber), in the arthritis a chronic inflammation of the synovial membrane takes place (the "bag" that covers the articulation) that gives rise to pain and difficulty for the movement and ends up damaging very quickly the cartilage, the bone, the ligaments and the tendons.

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

The most frequently swollen joints are the wrists, fingers, toes, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles.

In the mornings, there may be difficulty in initiating movement (morning stiffness) of varying duration.

Persistent inflammation can end up damaging the surrounding bones, ligaments and tendons. The consequence will be a progressive deformity of the joints and reduced joint mobility, which can lead the patient to a certain degree of disability to do some tasks of daily life.

Other less frequent symptoms are: unexplained fever, easy tiredness, neck pain, tingling in the hands or feet, pain in the chest or sides, dry mouth, redness or gritty feeling in the eyes and spots or lumps in the skin.

Learn what rheumatoid arthritis is and how it is treated (available in spanish)

The most common symptoms are:

  • Inflammation of joints.
  • Morning stiffness.
  • Progressive deformity of joints.
  • Reduction of the articular mobility.

Do you have any of these symptoms?

You may have rheumatoid arthritis

What are the causes of rheumatoid arthritis?

Although the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, it is believed to be related to genetic, environmental and immunological factors, including:

  • Genetic factors: the presence of certain genes increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to certain infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria, can trigger the disease in genetically predisposed individuals.
  • Immune response: The immune system attacks the synovial membranes, causing inflammation and joint damage.

Risk Factors

There are several factors that may increase the likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Gender: The prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis is higher in women compared to men.
  • Age: Although rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any stage of life, its onset is most common during middle adulthood.
  • Family history: The presence of rheumatoid arthritis in family members may increase the risk of developing the disease.
  • Smoking: Smoking increases the likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis, particularly if there is a genetic predisposition to the disease. In addition, smoking has been linked to a greater severity of the disease.
  • Overweight: Overweight individuals have an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is based on a combination of clinical criteria, blood tests and imaging studies. These include:

  • Medical history and physical exam: The physician will assess symptoms and perform a physical exam to evaluate the affected joints.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests may be performed to detect specific disease markers, such as rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies.
  • Imaging studies: X-ray, ultrasound and MRI may be used to assess the degree of inflammation and joint damage.

How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?

The treatment and monitoring of this disease is carried out in a joint and multidisciplinary way with other services.

Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is aimed at relieving pain, reducing inflammation, slowing disease progression and improving the patient's quality of life. Treatment may include:

  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, antimalarials, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors and other biologic medications may be prescribed to control inflammation and pain.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help improve joint function and muscle strength, as well as teach the patient joint protection techniques.
  • Exercise and physical activity: Regular exercise and physical activity can improve joint strength, flexibility and function, as well as contribute to the patient's overall well-being.
  • Education and emotional support: Providing information about the disease and its management, as well as emotional support, can improve the patient's adjustment to the disease and their quality of life.
  • Surgery: In cases of severe or disabling joint damage, surgical procedures such as arthroplasty (joint replacement) or synovectomy (removal of inflamed synovial membrane) may be considered.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Prevention and Control

Although there is no specific prevention for rheumatoid arthritis, there are some strategies that may help reduce the risk of developing the disease or control its progression:

  • Not smoking: Smoking has been associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis and may affect the effectiveness of some treatments.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Excess weight can increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and put additional stress on affected joints.
  • Balanced diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats can help reduce inflammation and improve overall health.
  • Stress management: Stress can contribute to inflammation and exacerbate rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Practicing stress management techniques, such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing, may be beneficial.
  • Managing chronic diseases: Effectively managing other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, may decrease the risk of complications associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Where do we treat it?


The Rheumatology Service
of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra

The Rheumatology Service has a multidisciplinary team highly specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatological diseases, from osteoarthritis, arthritis or osteoporosis to autoimmune or inflammatory diseases.

In addition, we have doctors specialized in assisting pregnant women with autoimmune diseases, in order to guarantee the maximum safety of the fetus.

Organized in specialized units

  • Inflammatory arthropathies.
  • Degenerative arthropathies.
  • Microcrystalline arthropathies.
  • Bone pathology.
  • Systemic autoimmune diseases.
  • Autoinflammatory diseases.
Imagen de la fachada de consultas de la sede en Pamplona de la Clínica Universidad de Navarra

Why at the Clinica?

  • Valoración integral del paciente.
  • Diagnóstico personalizado.
  • Tecnología de vanguardia.