6 Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Signs & Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease in which your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body. This causes inflammation (painful swelling) in the affected areas.

Most of the time, rheumatoid arthritis affects more than one joint simultaneously. Most joint damage caused by RA is in the fingers, wrists, and knees. RA can cause the lining of a joint to become inflamed, which can hurt the joint. This kind of tissue damage can cause pain that lasts for a long time or is always there an inability to stay balanced, and physical deformities (misshapenness).

RA doesn't just affect the joints; it can also hurt the lungs, heart, and eyes, among other tissues and organs.

6 Symptoms and Indications of Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you have joint pain, it may be hard to tell if it's from osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of wear-and-tear arthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis, a type of autoimmune arthritis. Either diagnosis should be checked by a rheumatologist or a doctor specializing in arthritis. Here are six signs that you might have RA and how they differ from the signs of OA.

One/More Swoollen Finger Knuckle

Rheumatoid arthritis is often marked by joint swelling at the tips of your fingers. The knuckles at the ends of your fingers, closest to your fingernails, are less likely to swell or become inflamed than those in the middle or on the bigger fingers.

Most of the time, the same joints in both hands are affected (the swelling is symmetrical). Its growth is not "bony"; it is sensitive and a little bit soft. Other common signs of rheumatoid arthritis are redness and heat around the hurt joint.

Pain in one of your Middle or Large Knuckles for more the 6 Weeks

At least one of your middle or large knuckles has been swollen and painful for over six weeks. Having a symptom for which there is no clear cause or explanation is a sign of RA. Even though rheumatoid arthritis can affect large joints like the knees, shoulders, and elbows, a diagnosis can only be made if at least two joints are swollen and painful.

But OA is more likely to make your little finger knuckles, the base of your thumbs, and your big toe joints swell and hurt.

Slight Fever

People with RA may get sick and have a fever because the disease often causes inflammation. A small fever is an early sign that can come along with being tired. This might happen before the joints hurt.

Your Elbows Have Bumps

You feel bad all over, and you might even get bumps on your elbows. When RA causes inflammation, it can lead to flu-like symptoms like low-grade fevers, stiffness, and tiredness. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause small, painful bumps to form under the skin. These are called nodules. Often, they show up on the back of the elbow. They are called rheumatoid nodules.

Pain In The Joints

Your body will feel stiff for over an hour when you wake up. When you have rheumatoid arthritis, it might be hard to make a full fist. Your wrists may swell up and hurt a lot, making you feel stiff. It might be hard to straighten your arms fully if this is the case. Early in RA, you probably won't have any pain or swelling in your hip joint. Most hip pain is caused by osteoarthritis, and the front of the hip or the groin is usually where it hurts.

Redness in Joints

If your joints are red and swollen, this could indicate inflammation. People with rheumatoid arthritis have discolored skin in the joints of their hands and feet. When the skin is inflamed, the blood vessels get bigger. This makes the skin look red. Because the blood vessels have grown, more blood may be able to flow into the area. This makes the skin red.

Risk Factors for RA

Researchers have looked at genetic and environmental factors to see how they might affect a person's chance of getting rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Things that put you at risk

  • Age. Even though RA can happen at any age, the risk increases. Most people get RA when they are in their sixties.

  • Sex. Two to three times as many women as men are diagnosed with RA annually.

  • Biology of heredity and traits that are passed down. A person's chance of getting RA increases if they have a gene that makes them more likely to get it. HLA (human leukocyte antigen) class II genotypes are a group of genes that can make arthritis worse. People with these genes may be more likely to get RA if exposed to smoking or being overweight.

  • Smoking. Several studies have shown that smoking cigarettes both makes you more likely to get RA and makes it worse if you already have it.

  • History of births. RA is less likely to happen to pregnant women than women who have never been pregnant.

  • Early life exposure. Some things that happen to you when you are young may make it more likely that you will get RA later in life. One study found that people whose moms smoked were twice as likely to get rheumatoid arthritis as adults. RA is likelier to happen to adults who grew up in low-income families.

  • Obesity. Obesity has been linked to a higher number of people with RA. Researchers who looked at the role of obesity found that as body mass index (BMI) increased, so did the chance of having RA.


RA can be treated and managed with medication(s) and self-management strategies. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are often used to treat RA because they slow the disease's progression and help prevent joint deformity. Biological response modifiers (biologics) are effective second-line treatments.

Along with medicine, there are ways to manage rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on your own. These methods have been shown to reduce pain and disability, allowing patients to go about their daily lives and work toward their goals.

Updated on: 04-Apr-2023


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