Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, progressive autoimmune disease caused by inflammation as a result of the immune system attacking itself. The National institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends assessment by a rheumatologist within 3 weeks of symptoms that could suggest rheumatoid arthritis, as early diagnosis and management is vitally important to establish good control of this condition. Rheumatoid arthritis can damage the tissue and cartilage in the joints, and even the bone, if not correctly managed, which is why early diagnosis and management is so vital. 

If not treated and managed effectively, rheumatoid arthritis can also spread to other joints, and go on to impact the nervous system and cardiovascular system.