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: 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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Comment from: sassyb, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: December 19

I think I may have had this for years. It started with soreness and stiffness in my fingers and I noticed my longest fingers were slightly bent too. I thought it was just growing older and didn't associate it with flu like symptoms that I was getting and general tiredness that wouldn't improve. I went to my general physician many times to have blood tests and was found to have low thyroid function and low iron. I thought the problem was solved but realized that the RA (rheumatoid arthritis) had attacked my thyroid too. I have been recently diagnosed and feel at last I have an answer.

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Comment from: Tracy, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: December 05

I had just been through some severe personal life changes that happened back to back throughout the past year. My depression had increased as expected and my doctor related my symptoms to that so it took longer to find the true diagnosis. I would wake up in the morning just bone tired. The fatigue was there constantly and was life altering. My knees felt like if I attempted squatting, they would literally explode. It hurt my knuckles to knock on a door. The summer prior I was mountain biking and was very active. My son who was also very active often in the woods, was diagnosed with Lyme disease. 1 month later I started having those symptoms also and although the Western Blot was unequivocal it showed I did recently have parvovirus. The next summer, almost to the day I started having some of the same symptoms again and then it was clarified as RA (rheumatoid arthritis). I have read studies that parvovirus could be linked to RA and also that an extremely stressful event could be linked to RA. I guess I have both of those risk factors. I am now taking Plaquenil. That has made a big difference but I'm not in remission yet. Can't say that I look forward to our life together but it is what you make it. I am told now that it is a mild case, I hope that is as far as we go together.

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