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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common types of chronic arthritis. It causes symptoms such as inflammation in the joints, which can lead to damage to bone and surrounding cartilage, and may affect other organs in the body. It is an autoimmune disease — a disorder that affects the immune system, causing the body to mistake its own healthy cells and tissues as foreign invaders.

More than 2 million adults in the United States suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. The condition affects all races, ethnic groups and age groups, although it typically occurs in middle-age and older adults. In addition, women are two to three times more likely than men to develop the disease.

Our Approach to Rheumatoid Arthritis

UCSF provides comprehensive evaluations and advanced, personalized care for rheumatoid arthritis. Because rheumatoid arthritis often involves different systems in the body, our team includes several types of doctors, such as rheumatologists, plastic surgeons who specialize in correcting hand deformities, and orthopedic surgeons who specialize in joint deformities and joint replacement.

Highly effective medications are available to control pain and slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. These include common pain relief medications, corticosteroids and a class of drugs called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. We also prescribe physical therapy to gently strengthen the joints and may recommend support devices, such as splints or crutches, to take stress off the joints. Surgery, including joint replacement, is also available to patients with severe joint damage.

In addition to caring for patients, our providers conduct clinical trials to evaluate potential new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. Interested patients may have the option to receive investigational treatments through a clinical trial.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-rheumatology

    Best in California for rheumatology

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.