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: worrieduk, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: May 09

My knee joints started to hurt first and my muscles around the knee and calf area became painful, then one morning my hands and fingers had pains. Over the months the fingers have started to swell a bit, then my elbows recently have started to hurt and I feel that it is the muscle around the elbow joint and along the arm which are painful. Some days are worse than others, but there is always a dull ache. I am now referring myself to the general physician for further analysis and will look at any diet changes and/or weight loss programs. This onset of rheumatoid arthritis also coincided with me being unable to eat gluten and (possibly) milk products.

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Comment from: Rae, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: May 02

I'm 39 and just have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I've had troubles with the balls and joints of both my feet since childhood and have been diagnosed with Morton's neuromas. I suffer pain in the feet every day and now I walk with a limp. My second and third toes roll to the sides and my little toes don't even touch the ground, they sit on the fourth toes. Years ago my wrists began to ache, kind of like a carpal tunnel pain. Two years ago I began getting really tired and just felt unwell. My fingers started to hurt. Being very active I couldn't understand why all of the sudden I started to slow down. I went to the doctors and had blood tests done. It came back that I was anemic so I started taking iron tablets. These didn't work and I was still not feeling well so I went back to the doctors and she investigated further. My blood tests showed a negative RA factor but raised ESR and neutropenia. I was put on prednisolone and felt wonderful after a few days. She referred me to a rheumatologist whom I was lucky to see in 3 weeks. I start taking methotrexate (MTX) next week. Today I experience pain in my feet, fingers, wrists and shoulders. I'm stiff every day, have muscle weakness and I know how my day will be the moment I get out of bed. Most days I feel hot with a temperature over 37.5. I don't sleep well and just feel yuck. At the moment I've got bruising and swelling between thumb and forefingers of both hands which came up yesterday. RA isn't pleasant at all but I try to stay positive because stress makes everything worse.

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Comment from: suddenlystiff, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: March 28

It started about 3 months ago with onset of aches and feeling fatigued. I was in a very stressful situation at work during the time and had been feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Then I started experiencing joint pain in my shoulder. Pretty soon it was both shoulders then my elbows, wrists, knees and ankles. The pain was intense but yet I kept getting up and going to work. Eventually after a month of all over joint pain I started experiencing severe swelling in my feet and ankles. The swelling was so extreme that I was unable to wear my normal shoes to work because they didn"t fit. The pain was intolerable. I have a pretty high threshold for pain but, this pain made me cry several times. I missed 3 days of work at that time because I literally couldn"t walk. I had been to my primary care physician (PCP) at that point three times. She put me on prednisone and referred me to a rheumatologist. For someone who"s always been in good health and has never relied on medication it was a bit terrifying and overwhelming. All of my lab tests (5 trips to the lab) came back negative for anything other than a severe vitamin D deficiency and elevated inflammation markers (my feet and ankles looked like they belonged on an elephant!). The rheumatologist just diagnosed me with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) although my lab tests show no markers. He had hoped it was viral and would have gone away by now. Wrong! I"m still dealing with the swelling and pain to the point where it takes all of what little energy I have left to try and stay positive. I"m 41 years old and am having a rough time with this newly diagnosed illness. I"m reading a lot about it and now trying to make an educated decision to start the medication he prescribed last week. I"m finding it impossible to make lemonade out of these lemons life has thrown my way.

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Comment from: MICHIGAN, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: March 11

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia first and the doctors knew something else was wrong but could not pinpoint it and I was just depressed. Finally I found a wonderful rheumatologist that confirmed the fibromyalgia but also seronegative rheumatoid arthritis. This point took almost 4 years to get to. I am on Plaquenil and ibuprofen (which I have to limit due to blood pressure). I experience joint pain, redness, swelling (which I can tell is fluid), and lately the stiffness has been more noticeable but not when I first wake up. I am more concerned with the eye blurriness that I have been experiencing. That"s on top of everything from restless legs to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and skin issues from the fibromyalgia. They just confirmed that my RA level is moderate but I do not want to start the intravenous medications and I am sensitive to others (allergic to Celebrex).

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