Vascular abnormalities predisposing to atherosclerosis are present in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and associate with excess cardiovascular risk. Symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA), an endogenous inhibitor of nitric oxide (NO) synthase activity, has been recognised as novel risk factor for endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular disease. We aimed to compare SDMA levels in RA patients and controls and to investigate whether they are influenced by demographic, inflammatory or metabolic factors. Serum SDMA levels were measured in 197 RA individuals [median age: 67 years (quartiles: 59–3), 153 (78 %) females] and 82 controls [median age: 44 years [quartiles: 33–55, 50 (61 %) females]. Routine biochemistry tests, lipid profile, glycemic profile [glucose, insulin, homeostasis model assessment (HOMA-IR), quantitative insulin sensitivity check index (QUICKI)], as well as inflammatory markers were measured in all patients. Paired analysis was employed for the comparison of SDMA in two groups and multivariable regression models were performed to identify predictors of SDMA in the RA cohort. SDMA was significantly lower in RA than control patients in both unpaired and paired analyses (P <0.001 and P = 0.005, respectively), with the magnitude of the difference being similar in both models. QUICKI (P = 0.005) and disease activity score-28 (P = 0.007) were positively related to SDMA in the RA cohort, whilst a negative correlation with renal function (eGFR) was detected (P = 0.005). The molecular explanation of lower serum SDMA is unclear, but the established relationships with indices of disease activity and insulin resistance, may underline the pathogenetic role of the l-arginine/NO pathway dysregulation in the development of atherosclerosis in RA. The biological and clinical importance of SDMA in RA remains to be evaluated in clinical and experimental studies.