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Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Written by maria_rn, sshowalter.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, progressive and potentially debilitating disease. It primarily causes joint pain and swelling, and may later on lead to deformities.

Rheumatoid arthritis usually develops in the wrists and knuckles. The knees and joints of the ball of the foot are also common sites affected by the disease. It may involve many joints including the cervical spine, shoulders, elbows, temporomandibular joint, and even joints in the inner ear. Below are the signs and symptoms that commonly occur with rheumatoid arthritis:

Morning stiffness.

This is considered as the hallmark symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. The stiffness limits function it may last for more than an hour.

Swelling and pain in the joints.

The inflamed joints are usually swollen and often feel warm. In rheumatoid arthritis, the joint pain is typically symmetrical, but may be more severe on one side of the body, depending on which side is more often used.

Limited range of motion.

People with rheumatoid arthritis may find it difficult to carry out normal activities because of the pain and swelling in the joints. The effects range from mild to severe depending on how active the inflammation is. In some cases, even doing even the simplest tasks is enough to cause severe pain.

Fluid buildup

Rheumatoid may cause an abnormal build up of fluids in and around the joints. Intermittent calves, ankles, legs and feet may occur as a result of the inflammation to the synovial lining of the joint and blood vessels.


In RA, inflammation of small blood vessels can cause firm, none-tender nodules, or lumps, under the skin. Rheumatoid nodules have been found to occur in 17-34% of people with rheumatoid arthritis. Nodules are commonly found over areas of bony prominence or pressure points such as the elbow, knuckles or heel pad, but they can also show up in other areas such as the back of the forearm. Nodules vary in size and number. They are usually formed in chronic active cases of rheumatoid arthritis, sometimes they occur before the development of the disease.

In rare cases, nodules become sore and infected, especially if they are in areas that often subject to stress such as the ankles. Presence of nodules occasionally indicate rheumatoid vasculitis, a serious complication of long-standing and severe rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid vasculitis can affect blood vessels that carry blood to the skin, nerves, and internal organs.

Flu-Like Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease, this means that its symptoms are not limited to the joints. The rheumatoid factor and other antibodies are found throughout the body. As a result, a person with rheumatoid arthritis may experience fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fever, particularly in the early stages of the disease.


Rheumatoid Arthritis FAQs By Eric D. Newman, Cynthia K. Matzko

Professional Guide to Diseases: By Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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