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The small joints of the hands and wrists are the joints most commonly affected by the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis. The inflammation (arthritis) does not always progress to involve other joints. In some patients, the inflammation remains limited to the joints of the hands and wrists, while in others, it progresses slowly or rapidly to involve joints elsewhere. Because of the potential for progressive involvement of additional joints, it is important to begin therapy early in the course of rheumatoid arthritis. It also is easier and more effective to treat rheumatoid arthritis in its early stages.
Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care
"Disease outcome and functional capacity in rheumatoid arthritis"