20 Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms That Shouldn’t be Ignored

Whole-Body Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms


Malaise is a feeling of discomfort, illness and overall uneasiness often experienced by people with RA. Signs of this condition are lack of energy, sleepiness, weakness, and achiness. Some people with RA describe it similar to the exhaustion and sickness experienced when having the flu.


RA and depression tend to occur together. Studies have shown when depression in people with RA isn’t addressed, RA treatment is less effective.

Researchers don’t know what exactly causes people with RA to experience depressed moods, but they speculate it is related to their physical symptoms. Left untreated, depression in people RA can result in more pain, increase the risk for heart problems, and cause relationship problems, loss of productivity at work and sexual problems.

The good news is t RA and depression respond to treatment when both conditions are addressed. If you have RA and feel depressed, it is important to talk to your doctor, as medication, support, and personalized treatment can significantly improve your quality of life.


Up to 60 percent of people with RA are also anemic, this according to one report in the medical journal, BMC Geriatrics. Anemia occurs when your body isn’t producing enough blood red cells.

Researchers don’t know why anemia affects people with RA, but they think whole-body inflammation is to blame. Inflamed tissues release proteins that affect the body’s ability to use iron and make new red blood cells, resulting in low red blood counts.


RA causes blood platelet levels to drop quicker than normal, which makes it easier for you to bruise. Certain medications used to treat RA, including prednisone, also increase your risk for bruising, and if you are anemic, you are also likely to bruise more easily.



Some people with RA development low grade fevers frequently, while offers feel feverish only during flare-ups. If you experience fevers due to RA, getting your inflammation under control will improve fevers.

GI Symptoms

Studies show people with RA have more gastrointestinal (GI) problems than people without the disease. High levels of inflammation and impaired immunity are likely culprits, as are the medications used to treat inflammation, including NSAIDs.

GI symptoms in people with RA include diarrhea, constipation, indigestion (heartburn) and acid reflux. Further, people with RA have an increased risk for upper GI events and lower GI events.

Upper GI events include ulcers, inflammation of the esophagus, and GI perforation (a hole in the stomach wall). Lower GI events include bleeding, diverticulitis (infection of the lining of the intestine) and colitis (large intestine swelling).

Symptoms of a Severe Disease

One of the problems with treating RA is that the progression of the disease isn’t the same in everyone who has it. And despite the availability of better and more aggressive treatments, some people with RA will still develop symptoms that may indicate a more severe disease.

Skin Symptoms

RA affects your skin and about a quarter of people with RA develop rheumatoid nodules or lumps of tissue under the skin. RA also causes you to experience itchy and dry skin, and skin rashes, skin ulcers, and even mouth sores.

While some skin irritation and dryness are not unusual with RA, painful skin rashes and ulcers and mouth sores are related to a condition called vasculitis or inflammation of blood vessels. It is possible for this type of inflammation to stop blood flow, so it is a good idea to see your doctor if you show any signs of vasculitis.

Eye Symptoms

Eye conditions, including dry eye syndrome, are common people with RA. Dry eye syndrome causes blurred vison.

Talk to your eye doctor about eye drops or invest in a humidifier to relieve dryness. If you experience eye pain, redness or swelling, get checked out as these symptoms may be a sign of more severe eye conditions.

Patients with RA also have an increased risk for Sjögren’s, another autoimmune disease that affects the eyes and mouth. It is known for affecting the tear glands, causing redness and dryness of the eyes.


Research has shown people with RA are more likely to develop periodontal (gum disease) disease. This is likely due to having dry mouth, which may eventually cause tooth decay and gum infections.

Research reported in the medical journal, PLOS One suggests the bacteria associated with gum disease can make RA symptoms worse and even cause RA to progress quicker. But treating gum disease improve RA symptoms.

To minimize the effects RA has on your dental health and improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, make sure you see your dentist twice a year to catch minor issues before they become worse. Further, make sure you are brushing and flushing twice daily.

Next page: More information on the symptoms of a severe disease with RA. And does having any of these symptoms mean you have RA? 

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