What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis? Each person seems to experience RA differently. Sometimes the onset is sudden, other times it can be very gradual. Almost all RA cases involve flare-ups and remissions - alternating stages of chronic pain followed by no symptoms at all. Over time, however, flare-ups become more severe and remissions become few and far between.
One of the main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is joint pain, particularly in the smaller joints of the hands, wrists, and feet. This joint pain is usually symmetrical, meaning it affects both sides of the body (both hands instead of just one, for instance). The painful areas are often red, swollen, and tender to the touch. One of the early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is fever, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms accompanied by aches and pains all over.
Additionally, almost all RA sufferers will experience morning stiffness that lasts an hour or more each day. Over time, even resting and remaining motionless for just a few minutes will cause stiffness. Range of motion of the affected joints will also be reduced. Tiny bumps called nodules may also occur around the joints - these are caused by swollen blood vessels.
Over time, symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis become increasingly debilitating. Hand and foot deformities are common, as well as eye problems such as itching and burning. Numbness of the skin, chronic fever, swollen glands, and paleness frequently occur. Anemia is another common symptom, caused by the failure of bone marrow to produce enough red blood cells.
Occasionally, damage to the lungs and spinal chord may occur, as well as rheumatoid vasculitis, which is inflammation of the blood vessels. Rheumatoid vasculitis can lead to skin ulcers, infections, and tingling/numbness. In rare cases, the brain and heart can be affected, leading to stroke or heart attack.