Extra-articular RA (ExRA) includes a wide variety of disease manifestations. Although rheumatologists in general are aware that such events are clinically important, the heterogeneity of available data, including discrepancies in case definitions, has complicated constructive discussions on this aspect of the RA disease phenotype. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of co-morbidity in patients with RA. ExRA manifestations are not uncommon, explain excess mortality in RA and are predicted by smoking and autoantibodies. Further studies of the mechanisms underlying these associations are likely to be important in improving our understanding of the systemic nature of RA. This article discusses the methodological issues involved in the study of ExRA manifestations, presents suggested criteria that have been used in clinical studies, and reviews important surveys of the epidemiology of extra-articular RA.