Rheumatoid Arthritis Early Symptoms and Signs

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What are early signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and what areas of the body are affected?

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While early signs and symptoms of RA can be mimicked by other diseases, the symptoms and signs are very characteristic of rheumatoid disease. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and signs include the following:


Fatigue is a very common symptom in all stages of rheumatoid arthritis, particularly when the joint inflammation is active. Fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis can be caused by the body's reaction to inflammation, poor sleep, anemia, and medications.

The fatigue of rheumatoid arthritis that results in lack of energy can adversely affect emotions and mood, occupation, relationships with people, sex drive, productivity, attentiveness, creativity, and happiness.

Joint pain

Joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the inflammation present in a joint when the disease is active. Joint pain can also occur when the disease is inactive or controlled if the joint has been damaged by rheumatoid arthritis in the past.

Active rheumatoid arthritis causes the joint to swell because of both thickening of the joint lining tissue (synovium) and because of excess joint fluid. The swollen, inflamed joint stretches and irritates the capsule that surrounds the joint. The joint capsule has nerves endings within it that immediately send pain signals to the brain.

Past rheumatoid arthritis can lead to permanent joint destruction with damaged cartilage, bone, and ligaments. When the damaged joint is used, it can cause intense pain.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/17/2015

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Rheumatoid Arthritis Early Symptoms and Signs - Experience Question: Please describe the early symptoms and signs of your RA.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Early Symptoms and Signs - Unusual Symptoms and Signs Question: Did you have any unusual signs or symptoms that preceded the onset of your RA?