/16 Early Symptoms and Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

16 Early Symptoms and Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Source: iStock Many joints affected (polyarthritis)
Usually, but not always, rheumatoid arthritis affects many joints Classically, RA affects hands and wrists and balls of the feet Also, not uncommonly, knees, elbows, hips, ankles, and shoulders can be inflamed
Sometimes, only a few joints are involved Less frequently, a singular joint is involved Both of these scenarios are more common in childhood inflammatory arthritis ( juvenile rheumatoid arthritis )
When four or more joints are inflamed, the condition is referred to as polyarthritis When only a few joints are inflamed, it is referred to as oligoarthritis

When a single joint is inflamed, it is referred to as monoarthritis.

Source: iStock Limping
Limping from poor lower extremity function can be caused by many diseases of the nerves, muscles, and bones of the lower extremities Limping frequently occurs when rheumatoid arthritis affects the hips, knees, ankles, or feet Pain, loss of range of motion, and joint swelling all can cause a person with rheumatoid arthritis to have a noticeable limp It is not unusual for a young child with rheumatoid arthritis to have a painless limp as the first sign of the rheumatoid disease Source: Medscape – image courtesy of LH Brent, MD Joint deformity
Joint deformity can occur from chronic rheumatoid arthritis Deformity in rheumatoid arthritis occurs because the unchecked inflammation leads to both erosion of cartilage and bone as well as ligament loosening (laxity) Early diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is critical to prevent permanent joint damage and joint deformity Source: Getty Images Both sides of the body affected (symmetric)
Typically, the distribution of the joints involved in a person with rheumatoid arthritis is similar on both sides of the body This symmetric joint involvement is a feature of classic rheumatoid arthritis This does not mean that joint involvement is always symmetric, but it is common
Rheumatoid arthritis usually (not always) involves many joints on both sides of the body It is, therefore, sometimes referred to as a symmetric polyarticular form of arthritis Accordingly, hands, wrists, and feet are commonly affected The knees, ankles, shoulders, hips, and elbows can also be involved in early disease Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by inflammation in these joints Early manifestations of this inflammation can be gradual or rapidly intense The joint inflammation causes stiffness, usually worse in the morning or after being sedentary It also causes warmth, swelling, redness, and pain in varying degrees The joint can be very subtly affected with slight swelling or markedly affected with substantial loss of range of motion The pain level can be completely disabling and does not always correlate with the degree of apparent inflammation
As described above, the manner that each of the symptoms affects an individual can be very different from individual to individual and can vary during the day The intensity and effect of each of the symptoms is dependent upon the RA patient’s age, activity, the medications he or she takes, as well as any additional medical conditions that are present Source: Getty Images Loss of joint function
Because rheumatoid arthritis leads to pain, swelling, and tenderness of the involved joints, there is loss of joint function The swelling and sensitivity impedes the full motion and stability of the joint and it becomes incapable of carrying the movement with confidence, balance, and completeness

This loss of joint function leads to limping, lack of coordination, loss of grip and dexterity, and disability.

Source: N/A Anemia
The chronic inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis commonly causes the bone marrow to decrease the release of red blood cells into the circulation This lowers the red blood count to cause anemia when rheumatoid arthritis is active

It is not unusual for the anemia of rheumatoid arthritis to spontaneously correct as the inflammation of the disease is quieted by treatment.

Source: N/A Fever
Fever , while not common in rheumatoid arthritis, does occur in some patients when the disease is actively causing inflammation Typically, there is only mild low-grade temperature elevation and this corrects rapidly as the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis is treated Because patients with rheumatoid arthritis frequently require medications that can decrease the normal immune response, it is important that when they develop fever, infection is considered as a possible cause Infections can require aggressive treatment and interruption of some underlying rheumatoid treatments Arthritis Newsletter By clicking “Submit,” I agree to the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy I also agree to receive emails from MedicineNet and I MedicineNet Source: N/A Depression
Because rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition potentially associated with pain and disability, it can lead to depression A person with rheumatoid arthritis can commonly feel frustrated, but it can also lead to real depression with sadness, hopelessness, and blue mood that goes beyond frustration Doctors refer to this form of mood change as “reactive depression ” because it is a person’s response to a particular situation, in this case, a new chronic disease When patients feel depressed , regardless of cause, it is essential to share their feelings with their health care provider Over time, this can lead to a much healthier understanding of their bodies and improvement and resolution of their depression Daily Health News