Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious autoimmune disease that attacks the joints and other body parts.

RA can be tough to diagnose. Symptoms can mimic other illnesses, or they may flare, then fade, only to flare again somewhere else. Lab tests aren’t perfect—you can test negative for RA factors and still have it. And X-rays don’t show signs until later on.

By recognizing symptoms of early rheumatoid arthritis, the joint inflammation can be addressed before damage to the joints occur, thereby preventing long-term consequences of the disease. Moreover, because rheumatoid disease can affect other organs, early management can be used to optimize the health status throughout the body.

Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:
  • Fatigue - Fatigue can precede the onset of other symptoms by weeks or months.
  • Tender, warm, swollen joints. Early rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect smaller joints first. As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders. In most cases, symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of the body.
  • Morning stiffness, particularly worse in the morning
  • Firm bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms (rheumatoid nodules)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Weight loss
The inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis can also sometimes cause problems affecting other areas of the body, including dry eyes if the eyes are affected and chest pain if the heart or lungs are affected.

Most people with RA develop some damage to affected joints. The amount of damage can range from mild to severe. At the outset of the disease it is difficult to predict for an individual how badly the disease will progress. However, modern treatments can often limit or even stop the progression of the disease and limit the joint damage

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