The current paradigm for rheumatoid arthritis suggests that persistent synovitis leads to erosive joint damage, progression of which results in functional disability. Studies of X-ray progression followed for 1-9 yr have shown that 40-83% of subsequent progression can be predicted by a combination of prognostic factors such as joint involvement, high levels of C-reactive protein and rheumatoid factor (RF) positivity. There are similar findings for predictors of functional disability in studies followed for 2-15 yr. The most consistent prognostic feature is RF positivity, which is equally important in predicting joint damage and functional disability. Immunoglobulin A RF and the co-presence of RF with anti-keratin or anti-filaggrin antibodies may increase levels of prediction. Added value of genetic predictors over that of RF remains inconclusive. Therefore, therapeutic management should be individualized. Cases with active disease and seropositive RF tests merit aggressive therapy; conversely, cases with little synovitis and seronegative tests require conservative management.