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: Bobby T., 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: October 27

I have been dealing with rheumatoid arthritis for my whole life, it started about in my early 30s back in the 90s. I would have my hand swell up to big red balloons around my knuckles and I wouldn't be able to move the hands at all. What I did notice that helped relieve the pain, but not the swelling was Absorbine Jr. The arthritis cream made it easier with the stiffness and the pain when I had the worst conditions. The swelling and the movement were still bad though and sometimes that made it hard to do the easiest of tasks around the house. The thing I noticed at first and the early signs were pain and the swelling. The swelling where my knuckles would get red where the first indications that I had rheumatoid arthritis. I hope this helps your cause.

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Comment from: lhammer, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: August 16

My symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) began last spring. My left wrist and fingers became swollen and red. I am a special education teacher of students with moderate to severe disabilities, and one of my students was extremely aggressive: hitting, kicking and scratching my instructional assistants and me. I assumed it was a result of attempting to calm her down when she was a danger to herself, her teachers, and her classmates. The pain and swelling lasted several days, and went away as quickly as it had appeared. Two weeks later I had the same experience with my right hand, and had me convinced I had broken my wrist. Again, the pain and swelling subsided after several days. Last week I woke up fine, then began to feel pain in my shoulder and elbow so badly that I had to hold one arm up with the other to keep it from hanging at my side. All that I remembered was that I had thrown a ball with my son at the pool and had watered the flowers. I already had my yearly physical with my primary care physician scheduled, and mentioned the issues I was having. She did some bloodwork and had me get my arm x-rayed. I didn't think much more about it. This morning my doctor called and told me my CCP level was high (134), indicating I have RA, and referred me to a rheumatologist. The information is just starting to sink in. My husband has fibromyalgia, so I'm the primary caretaker of our children (ages 5 and 16) and wonder what will happen when my RA gets worse. I'm also worried about my ability to do my job. I'm only 42, so I have a long time to go before I can retire.

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Comment from: tinker sad, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: June 21

I had my head in the sand, in denial for about a year! We live out in the country so at first I thought I had been bit by a spider. I would rest for a bit and ice the hands/feet and then it would stop, until recently. Now if I lift a suitcase, make up bag or anything my hands/fingers swell way up, turn deep red, and the only thing that helps is plunging my feet in a bath of ice water. Taking Benadryl and NSAIDs did not help. I found a new doctor and she pushed me to do all this bloodwork after I took pictures on my cell phone of my fingers. I have rheumatoid arthritis and it is scary! I am a caretaker for my husband and our farm, and well, it is going to be a big adjustment. I was put on a pain medicine that also helps with the swelling. My guess is I will end up on methotrexate or prednisone. Good luck each and every one of you, this disease is a learning process. Don't give up.

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Comment from: Liz, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 19

To the patient who said her doctor will not treat her because she does not have that much pain in her hands even though she was tested positive for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), find yourself another rheumatologist. I have RA and most of my pain is in my back/neck, hips and knees and feet. It started with swelling in my knees, and stiffness. I also have found that the antibiotic Cipro seems to make my symptoms worse. Also tell all of your dentists, surgeons, etc., before you go under any anesthesia all of the medications you are taking. I am taking Zyprexa and Neurontin and did not divulge this to my oral surgeon and was given a strong pain reliever and I think I may have had an adverse reaction, as shortly after the surgery (root canal) I started getting the symptoms. A healthy diet helps and I am currently taking a once monthly injection. Methotrexate did not help that much. Exercise, even if it is mild such as walking helps also.

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