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Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. The hands, feet and wrists are commonly affected, but it can also cause problems in other parts of the body. There may be periods where your symptoms become worse, known as a flare-up or flare. A flare can be difficult to predict, but with treatment it is possible to decrease the number of flares and minimise or prevent long-term damage to the joints.