Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, swelling and tenderness, as well as decreased range of motion due to joint tissue inflammation. This is what makes rheumatoid arthritis so difficult for healthcare providers when it comes to diagnosing and prescribing treatment, especially in its early stages. An autoimmune disorder is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue, mistaking it for foreign or fever in rheumatoid arthritis tissue. Though there are many types of autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus, RA is one that afflicts roughly 1.
Symptoms of RA can range from mild to debilitating, and every level in between. However, there are some common overall symptoms to be aware of should you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Below are the most commonly reported rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. This is often the case when dealing with old sports injuries related to elbows, knees, and other joints.
In addition to outright pain, RA patients may also notice that their joints feel tender to the touch. This occurs when the inflammation in the joint tissue has affected the nerves within the joint capsule. In this case, any pressure placed on the joints—even compression during sleep—can elicit immediate pain. RA patients some much-needed pain relief. Joint swelling is another common RA symptom expressed by patients with this disease and it is caused by the inflammation in the joint capsule. The amount of swelling experienced by RA patients can range from limited to very noticeable in nature.
When joints become swollen, it can reduce mobility and range of motion for people with rheumatoid arthritis. And if swelling affects the hands, this type of inflammatory arthritis can make it more difficult to remove or put on rings. Anti-inflammatory drugs can sometimes help reduce this RA symptom. When joints are swollen due to RA, it can sometimes produce an isolated area of redness on the skin. This is because the skin’s capillaries widen due to the inflammation within the joint capsule, making them more visible. Additionally, when joints have become inflamed as a result of this disease, it is possible to feel warmth on the joint even if no redness is occurring. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how your body feels as some RA’s symptoms aren’t noticeable to the eye.
Stiffness in the joints occurs when this disease is in an active state of inflammation, or when your immune system is actively attacking healthy tissue. Oftentimes, the greatest amount of stiffness occurs in the mornings, but some RA patients report that it proceeds throughout the day as well. Dealing with this type of stiffness, as well as overall joint swelling, can result in the loss of range of motion if rheumatoid arthritis treatment is not sought quick enough or if the disease is too advanced. In some more advanced RA cases, range of motion can be permanently lost in certain joints.
Working with a qualified physical therapist can sometimes help preserve or extend range of motion for RA patients. Other treatment methods, such as taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can help as well. In addition to experiencing pain and early morning stiffness, when severe damage has occurred to the joint capsule’s cartilage and bones, the patient’s entire joint can become deformed. This is usually the result of chronic rheumatoid arthritis that has gone undetected and without treatment. The above symptoms are those that are physically experienced directly with the joints themselves by people with rheumatoid arthritis. However, each symptom can manifest itself in different ways, throughout different parts of the body, and during different periods of time with this particular immune system-related disease. There are also some more general symptoms which can often be mistaken for other conditions.
We cover these below, including early warning signs. What Areas of the Body are Affected? Symptoms of joint inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can occur throughout several areas of the body and within multiple joints due to the enzymes the inflammation releases which can wear the bone and cartilage away. RA symptoms can occur in any one of these centered location, or they can be felt in multiple areas. It is very common for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers to report symmetrical symptoms to their treatment provider.