15 Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Symptoms and Signs
While early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can actually be mimicked by other diseases, the symptoms are very characteristic of rheumatoid disease. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and signs include the following:
- Joint pain
- Joint tenderness
- Joint swelling
- Joint redness
- Joint warmth
- Joint stiffness
- Loss of joint range of motion
- Joint deformity
- Many joints affected (polyarthritis)
- Both sides of the body affected (symmetric)
- Loss of joint function
Quick GuideRheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Symptoms & Treatment
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) facts
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints and other areas of the body.
- Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and signs include
- joint pain, such as in the joints of the feet, hands, and knees,
- swollen joints,
- loss of range of motion,
- tender joints,
- loss of joint function,
- stiff joints,
- joint redness,
- rheumatoid nodules,
- joint warmth,
- joint deformity, and
- symptoms and signs that affect both sides of the body (symmetry).
- Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease characterized by periods of disease flares and remissions.
- In rheumatoid arthritis, multiple joints are usually, but not always, affected in a symmetrical pattern.
- Chronic inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent joint destruction and deformity.
- Damage to joints can occur early and does not always correlate with the severity of RA symptoms.
- The "rheumatoid factor" is an antibody that can be found in the blood of 80% of people with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid factor is detected in a simple blood test. Possible risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis include genetic background, smoking, silica inhalation, periodontal disease, and microbes in the bowels (gut bacteria).
- There is no cure for RA. The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis optimally involves a combination of patient education, rest and exercise, joint protection, medications, and occasionally surgery.
- Medications used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis include NSAIDs, DMARDs, TNF alpha inhibitors, IL-6 inhibitors, T-cell activation inhibitors, B-cell depleters, JAK inhibitors, immunosuppressants, and steroids.
- Early RA treatment results in a better prognosis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of all ages. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known.
Picture of hands affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Notice the joint deformity in the fingers; Image provided by Getty Images
What is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?
Rheumatoid arthritis definition
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body's tissues are mistakenly attacked by their own immune system. The immune system contains a complex organization of cells and antibodies designed normally to "seek and destroy" invaders of the body, particularly infections. Patients with autoimmune diseases have antibodies and immune cells in their blood that target their own body tissues, where they can be associated with inflammation. While inflammation of the tissue around the joints and inflammatory arthritis are characteristic features of rheumatoid arthritis, the disease can also cause inflammation and injury in other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. Rheumatoid arthritis is a classic rheumatic disease. Rheumatoid arthritis that begins in people under 16 years of age is referred to as juvenile idiopathic arthritis or JIA (formerly juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or JRA).
Picture of a joint with rheumatoid arthritis
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/13/2017