20 Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms That Shouldn’t be Ignored

20 Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms to Be Aware of

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may vary from person to person. In some people with RA, symptoms may come and go or will vary in severity.

Some will experience periods (or episodes called flare-ups) of intense pain and discomfort along which may last for days, weeks or even months at a time. While some people may experience periods of no symptoms at all. Over time, this rheumatoid arthritis symptom rollercoaster will cause your joints to deform.

It’s important to know that RA symptoms don’t just affect the joints, they also affect the entire body or specific parts of the body, such as eyes and skin.

RA is generally symmetrical, which means if one side is affected, the other is likely affected as well. However, most people with RA can tell you that this is not always the case.

First, in order to understand the second part of what rheumatoid arthritis is, you must begin with its symptoms starting from rheumatoid arthritis joint symptoms to the physical symptoms of RA to the severe symptoms of RA itself. Below you will learn more about the 20 symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis you should watch for.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Joint Symptoms

RA always affects the joints and causes the following classic joint rheumatoid arthritis symptoms:


One of the earliest signs of RA is stiffness in the small joints, usually the small joints of the hands and feet.   Stiffness comes on slowly, but it is possible for it to be sudden and affect multiple joints over a period of a few days.


Morning stiffness, upon waking, is also common. Stiffness that lasts for several hours is also normal with RA. It is also possible to feel stiffness after sitting down for long periods of inactivity.


Joint stiffness eventually results in pain and tenderness during movement and while at rest. The most common pain sites in RA are the hands, fingers, and wrists. Later, on, you may also develop pain in the feet, ankles, shoulders, knees, and hips.


Inflammation of joints causes joints to appear swollen. Swollen joints may also feel warm and tender to touch. Swelling and inflammation can last day or weeks, and flares will increase the longer you live with RA.

Limited Range of Motion

Dealing with stiffness, swelling and pain can result in limited motion in joints, especially in people with advanced RA. In some cases, range of motion loss in certain joints can be permeant.

Working with a physical therapist can help to preserve your range of motion. RA medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can also help.

Joint Locking

Joint locking is common in advanced RA. It’s the result of cartilage wearing away and bony growths. It most often affects the knees and finger joints. It is basically what happens when your joints get stuck and you can’t release them.

Joint locking can be painful, and frequent joint locking should be reported to your doctor. Treatments for joint locking include cortisone injections to decrease inflammation in affected joints and surgery as a last resort and especially of the joint remains locked, such as is the case for a condition called “trigger finger.”

Deformity and Disability

Over time, RA can cause joints to shift out of place and become deformed. RA may also cause joint immobility and disability.

Surgical intervention can repair and replace damaged bones and joints and is often successful in restoring joint function.

Whole-Body Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

RA most often affects the body’s joints, but because it is also systematic, meaning it affects the entire body, including organs.


Fatigue is common in all stages of RA. Early on, however, fatigue is felt long before any other rheumatoid arthritis symptoms became noticeable, and it may start weeks or months prior to any symptoms.

RA fatigue is often accompanied by with an overall feeling of ill health and/or a depressed mood. This fatigue is the body’s response to inflammation, sleep issues, medications used to treat the disease, and other effects of the disease, including anemia.

Rheumatoid arthritis fatigue causes lack of energy and motivation and negatively affects mood, relationships, productivity, and happiness. Fatigue is also associated with poor appetite, weight loss, and digestive problems.

Muscle aches

Just as inflammation affects the joints, it can also affect the muscles. Muscle soreness and stiffness are common in RA. Muscle aches can cause muscles to spasm and cramp up. Stretching the muscles near affected joints may help you regain motion.

Next page: physical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, RA and GI symptoms, and more information on rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. 

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