A media campaign to inform the public about rheumatoid arthritis - an incurable chronic disease of the joints and connective tissue that can be significantly eased by new biological treatments if diagnosed early - has been launched by Inbar, the Health Ministry and the Israel Rheumatology Association. The campaign, to appear in newspapers, magazines, radio and on the Internet, is meant to counter the widespread ignorance about the disorder, whose symptoms usually present themselves in individuals between the ages of 30 and 40. However, it can also begin during childhood. Ihe disease is three times more common in women than men, according to Inbar (the 24-year-old association of rheumatoid arthritis patients and medical specialists). About a tenth of the population either suffer from the chronic disease or or have family members who do. More than half of Israelis think rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of middle-aged or elderly people, and 57 percent don't know what a rheumatologist is, a survey conducted for Inbar found. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune, inflammatory disease that tends to run in families and is caused by the person's immune system attacking the synovial tissue in the joints because it mistakenly regards it as "foreign." Early symptoms include sensitive, hot and swollen joints, especially upon waking in the morning. The first joints to be affected are usually in the hands and feet. Untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to severe disability and cause harm to other bodily systems as well. If caught early, biological drugs included in the basket of health services can slow and minimize the symptoms and disability. Patients are advised to stop smoking, start exercising, eat nutritious food and reduce daily stresses as well as be under a specialist's ongoing care.