Rheumatoid Arthritis - Early Symptoms

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

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What are rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and signs?

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis come and go, depending on the degree of tissue inflammation. When body tissues are inflamed, the disease is active. When tissue inflammation subsides, the disease is inactive (in remission). Remissions can occur spontaneously or with treatment and can last weeks, months, or years. During remissions, symptoms of the disease disappear, and people generally feel well. When the disease becomes active again (relapse), symptoms return. The return of disease activity and symptoms is called a flare. The course of rheumatoid arthritis varies among affected individuals, and periods of flares and remissions are typical.

When the disease is active, symptoms can include fatigue, loss of energy, lack of appetite, low-grade fever, muscle and joint aches, and stiffness. Muscle and joint stiffness are usually most notable in the morning and after periods of inactivity. This is referred to as morning stiffness. Arthritis is common during disease flares. Also during flares, joints frequently become warm, red, swollen, painful, and tender. This occurs because the lining tissue of the joint (synovium) becomes inflamed, resulting in the production of excessive joint fluid (synovial fluid). The synovium also thickens with inflammation (synovitis).

Rheumatoid arthritis usually inflames multiple joints and affects both sides of the body. In its most common form, therefore, it is referred to as a symmetric polyarthritis. Early symptoms may be subtle. The small joints of both the hands and wrists are often involved. Early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be pain and prolonged stiffness of joints, particularly in the morning. Symptoms in the hands with rheumatoid arthritis include difficulty with simple tasks of daily living, such as turning door knobs and opening jars. The small joints of the feet are also commonly involved, which can lead to painful walking, especially in the morning after arising from bed. Occasionally, only one joint is inflamed. When only one joint is involved, the arthritis can mimic the joint inflammation caused by other forms of arthritis, such as gout or joint infection. Chronic inflammation can cause damage to body tissues, including cartilage and bone. This leads to a loss of cartilage and erosion and weakness of the bones as well as the muscles, resulting in joint deformity, destruction, and loss of function. Rarely, rheumatoid arthritis can even affect the joint that is responsible for the tightening of our vocal cords to change the tone of our voice, the cricoarytenoid joint. When this joint is inflamed, it can cause hoarseness of the voice. Symptoms in children with rheumatoid arthritis include limping, irritability, crying, and poor appetite.

Return to Rheumatoid Arthritis

See what others are saying

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: miyoshii, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: June 04

It happened suddenly about 5 years ago. Pinky finger and ring finger swelled up so painful, red, and bent; looked like I broke my two fingers. Doctor took x-ray and we had a surprise. I have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It was so horribly painful and it looks terrible. Now after 5 years I have bent fingers and knobby bones in the same two fingers. It started with an injury, someone I worked with bumped into me. I see it happening on my right hand now just slower. I play the piano and garden to keep positive and take Epsom and sea salt bath almost every day to help me get through my full time job. I also have 8 degenerated discs, 4 in the neck and 4 in the lower back. At my job it is exhausting and I worry that I might not be able to work soon. I am always tired and feel pain more often than before. Not doing the usual stuff I used to do. My feet are getting worse too. I wear steel toe boots and walk on concrete all day. I just hope there is some cure or way to slow it down. I have a lot of living still to do. I also use aromatherapy a lot. I have started breathing exercises and Tai Chi. I hope the best for everyone and thank you for allowing me to share.

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