Rheumatoid arthritis is an often serious joint disease that affects around 400,000 Australians and is the second most common type of arthritis, after osteoarthritis. The disease is more common among females and in older age groups. The underlying cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not well understood but genetic factors play a key role (smoking also increases the risk of developing the disease). The disease reduces a person's capacity to work, with only 31% of those affected in fulltime employment in 2004-05 compared with 53% of the general population. This report provides information on other symptoms, effects and treatments, as well as looking at prevention.