Facts About Arthritis and Autoimmune Conditions


  • Over 6 million Canadians, or 1 in 5, live with some form of arthritis or an associated autoimmune disease.
  • 2 million Canadians suffer from autoimmune diseases, which are among the most common and debilitating of all chronic diseases. Some of these autoimmune diseases can be fatal and many share a common genetic background.  
  • There are over 50 different, irreversible autoimmune conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, scleroderma, lupus and others. In these conditions, the body’s immune system becomes “confused” and attacks itself. 
  • Other forms of arthritis associated with autoimmunity include psoriatic arthritis, arthritis associated with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, anklyosing spondylitis and Sjogren’s syndrome. Other autoimmune disorders include type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disorders and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Autoimmune disorders that are not adequately controlled can lead to an increased frequency of strokes and heart attacks, which is the most common cause of death in these patients.
  • Fortunately, treatment that brings the diseases under control can reduce the mortality related to heart disease and strokes.
  • The three most severe and potentially life-threatening autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis (RA), scleroderma and vasculitis.


  • Arthritis is not confined to older adults; the majority of Canadians with arthritis are of working age (less than 65 years).
  • The average age of onset of arthritis is between 40 and 60.
  • Two thirds of Canadians with arthritis are women.


  • Arthritis may result in extended periods of pain and suffering, reduced sleep, depression and unemployment.
  • 55% of those with arthritis report going to work each day despite great pain and discomfort.
  • Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in Canada.
  • Arthritis and autoimmune conditions account for over 10% of the total economic burden of illness in Canada yet only 1.3% of attributed health science research is dedicated to arthritis and autoimmune conditions.
  • The annual burden of arthritis and related autoimmune diseases on Canada’s economy is $5.7 billion.


  • Mount Sinai Hospital’s Rebecca MacDonald Centre for Arthritis and Autoimmune Disease sees over 15,000 patient visits each year and is globally unique in its range of expertise, integrating imaging, genetics, clinical trials and outcomes research.
  • The Centre of Excellence in Precision Medicine for Arthritis and Autoimmune Disease at Sinai Health System is harnessing emerging technology in precision medicine to determine who will have mild versus severe disease and who will be susceptible to these disorders. This allows clinicians to match the right person to the right drug at the right time.
  • Arthritis research can be used as a model for studying other chronic conditions and disorders associated with aging and, therefore, may have broader implications for other chronic diseases.