Patient Comments: Rheumatoid Arthritis - Early Symptoms and Signs

What were your symptoms and signs at the onset of your rheumatoid arthritis?

A Doctor's View on 15 Early Symptoms and Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Read the Comment by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Early RA symptoms and signs vary differently from person to person. The most common body parts that are initially affected by RA include the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet, and the knees and hip joints. Joint inflammation causes stiffness. Warmth, redness, and pain may vary in degree. Read the entire Doctor's View

Comment from: leckertmason, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: May 21

I work in warehousing, have for the last 30 years. About six months ago the morning stiffness started. Five months ago I felt like something was in my eye. There was nothing there, real dry eye. In the last 3 months, I started with my left hand and wrist swelling along with the warmth and redness. Now, my feet, ankles, knees, wrists and elbows swell and hurt. This last week my neck hurts like heck. When my feet hurt I end up limping. I am assuming this is why my sciatic nerve starts acting up. This is mostly affecting my left side so much my husband was afraid I maybe had a stroke. Last week I finally saw a rheumatologist and she ordered a bunch more blood tests. I walk all day long, on concrete, wearing steel toed boots. I leave work every day limping and most days I'm in tears by the time I get in my truck. I also have scoliosis with 2 half missing vertebrae, one in the lower back and one in the upper back. They have me on methylprednisolone at the moment. It is helping with the swelling and some of the pain.

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Comment from: bllapth, (Patient) Published: May 21

My symptom of rheumatoid arthritis was numbness in the hands, similar to what would mistakenly be diagnosed with tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Comment from: Ddt, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 06

I started having pain and morning stiffness in right shoulder. After months of pain, I went to doctor and was sent to therapy twice a week for 6 weeks. I had no relief and pain started in left shoulder. I am waiting to get to a rheumatologist. I have severe pain and stiffness in the morning and painful sleep. Now pain is extending to elbows and wrists. Blood test said rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and second doctor does not believe it to be RA. I just need to find relief and answers.

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Comment from: r1cochet, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: March 24

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 5 years ago after a very painful and depressing 30th anniversary cruise. I'm retired military (tank mechanic) and have always had some level of joint problems. The Veterans Affairs diagnosed osteoarthritis when I had my retirement physical in 2002. We were a couple of days into the cruise when I started having major pain throughout my body and towards the end of the day I could barely walk. I was only 50 at the time and it felt like I was 90! Luckily my family doctor ran the RA factor and got me referred to a rheumatologist.

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Comment from: Emma Rose, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 05

My rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms began in October 2014 when I experienced a lump on the top of my hand. It was soft to the touch and warm. I iced my hand and the next day, it was gone. A month later, I experienced swelling in a few of my fingers, again warm to the touch. In January the swelling continued and I was diagnosed with RA just today, March 3, 2015.

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Comment from: Lynn L., (Patient) Published: January 07

My rheumatoid arthritis (RA) started out of the blue, in the summer. I'd been working in our yard when I started to feel some pain in the top of my right hand. Didn't think much about it. But by bedtime, the top of my hand had swelled and my fingers became very swollen. Really swollen, I couldn't bend them even. By about 12 am, the other hand had also swelled up and the pain was intense. Again, I had no idea what was wrong. I iced my hands, lay on the bed with them dangling down, took Tylenol (of course), paced the house in agony, got really sick and nauseated from the pain, and finally went to the emergency clinic in desperation. We don't have a good emergency system here. It took hours to see someone, who of course didn't know what was wrong either, and suggested the gardening had caused tendonitis. By then the pain had subsided for some reason. Must have been the time length. After a 2nd episode weeks later, blood work was done and the diagnosis of RA was tentatively given. They thought at first it may even be palindromic; between the first two flares, I had no symptoms. Finally I got to a specialist who confirmed the RA and started me on medications. A year and a half later, it is 'full blown' and thankfully I have no joint damage yet, but it's in my shoulders, hands, jaws, wrists. But though I'm in a constant certain level of pain, it's never been at the level that it was the first couple of times. Thank goodness, because I'm one of those people whose liver does not process narcotic medication. I know a bit about that now.

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