Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic health condition which causes pain and swelling in your joints.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) about 456,000 Australians (around 1 in 50 people) have rheumatoid arthritis. While it is most common in those over 75 years of age, most people are first diagnosed between the ages of 35 and 64 years. Women are more likely to be affected than men.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where your immune system mistakenly attacks the tissues around your joints. When this happens, some joints become swollen and painful. While the cause is still unknown, having a family history and smoking both increase the risk. Rheumatoid arthritis is quite different from osteoarthritis, which occurs when the cartilage that protects your joints breaks down.

Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • pain or swelling in the joints of both hands or both feet
  • stiffness in your joints, particularly in the morning
  • symmetrical pain and swelling (meaning that the same joints on both sides of the body are affected)
  • persistent fatigue.

For some people, the symptoms gradually worsen. Others may have flareups followed by periods of time with little or no symptoms, which may last months or even years. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent joint damage, but early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent this. For this reason, it is important to see your doctor if you have symptoms.

The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis will depend on your symptoms and their severity. There are several medications that can help with pain management and reducing inflammation. These include:

  • pain relief medications such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • corticosteroids (available as tablets or injections) which can help to manage pain and stiffness during flareups
  • disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biological DMARDs, which can help to reduce symptoms and joint damage.

There are also things that you can do to help to manage your rheumatoid arthritis, including:

  • Building healthy lifestyle habits, including eating a healthy diet (particularly a Mediterranean-style diet), exercising regularly, not smoking, managing stress levels and getting adequate sleep and rest.
  • Learning how to protect your joints and manage your pain and fatigue.
  • Seeking help from an occupational therapist if you need help with managing day-to-day activities due to joint pain and stiffness.
  • Including more omega-3 fats in your diet (from oily fish, walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds) and considering an omega-3 supplement to help with reducing inflammation.
  • Getting enough vitamin D from sensible sunlight exposure and/or supplements.

For more information:


Harrison SR, Li D, Jeffery LE, Raza K, Hewison M. Vitamin D, Autoimmune Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Calcif Tissue Int. 2020 Jan;106(1):58-75. doi: 10.1007/s00223-019-00577-2. Epub 2019 Jul 8. PMID: 31286174; PMCID: PMC6960236.

Gioia C, Lucchino B, Tarsitano MG, Iannuccelli C, Di Franco M. Dietary Habits and Nutrition in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Can Diet Influence Disease Development and Clinical Manifestations? Nutrients. 2020 May 18;12(5):1456. doi: 10.3390/nu12051456. PMID: 32443535; PMCID: PMC7284442.

Group of friends relaxing on the grass in the summeritme having a good time together

Want to Join the Tribe?

Get inspired by Your Health and start living the life you love. 😃

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive great articles — just like this one — direct to your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This

Share this post with your friends!