A Closer Look at Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Are you showing signs of tender joints, stiffness, or fatigue?

The typical case of rheumatoid arthritis begins slowly, with the development of signs and symptoms occurring over weeks to months. The pain is usually symmetrical, in that if there is pain in one’s right wrist, RA sufferers will typically find the same pain in the left wrist as well. Rheumatoid arthritis does not only affect the hands and wrists, however, as pain can often times be found in the fingers, hips, knees, and neck as well.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, people with RA may not initially see redness or swelling in the joints during the early stages of their disease, but they may experience tenderness and pain. While this pain, along with morning stiffness, swelling, and systemic symptoms are common among RA sufferers, other rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, include:

  • swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joint, even when it is not being used
  • a feeling of warmth around the joint
  • deformities and contractures of the joint
  • symptoms throughout the body, such as fever, loss of appetite and decreased energy
  • weakness due to a low red blood cell count (anemia)
  • nodules, or lumps, particularly around the elbow
  • foot pain, bunions, and hammer toes with long-standing disease.

Patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis typically have multiple affected joints in the hands, arms, legs, and feet. Joints of the cervical spine may be involved as well.

The joint stiffness in active RA is often worse in the morning, according to the American College of Rheumatology. The feeling can last up to a few hours in the morning, or may even last the whole day but often improves with movement of the joints. Morning stiffness in this manner may be a sign that you have rheumatoid arthritis, since it is not common in other conditions (osteoarthritis, for example, does not often cause prolonged morning stiffness).

If you are feeling any of these symptoms, it is important to seek assessment by a rheumatologist, a doctor that treats and specializes in arthritis and autoimmune disease. Since there are certain diseases (lupus, gout, etc.) that can be mistaken for RA a correct diagnosis will aid in proper treatment.

-Additional reporting by Steven Aliano

Updated on: 05/17/18
Continue Reading:
Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis